United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
ARLENE GOLDEN and KATIE GOLDEN SMITH, as parent and natural guardian of C.S., a minor, Plaintiffs,
BRETHREN MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
F. SAPORITO, JR. United States Magistrate Judge.
an action by a policyholder, Arlene Golden, and her minor
grandson, C.S., against Golden’s automobile insurer for
breach of contract and for the statutory tort of bad faith.
December 21, 2016, the plaintiffs were involved in an
automobile accident in which Golden’s vehicle was
struck by another, driven by non-party Melissa Stevenson.
Stevenson, who was driving under the influence of alcohol at
the time, crossed the double-yellow line and struck
Golden’s vehicle head-on, causing serious injuries to
both Golden and C.S., who was a front-seat passenger in her
vehicle. Based on the complaint, Golden was entirely without
fault in the accident.
time of the accident, Golden was covered by a personal
automobile insurance policy issued by the defendant, Brethren
Mutual Insurance Company (“Brethren”), Policy No.
PAP0040082. The policy included underinsured motorist
coverage (“UIM”) with a $600,000 limit of
December 21, 2018-exactly two years after they were injured
in the underlying automobile accident-the plaintiffs filed
their two-count complaint in this action, asserting diversity
jurisdiction. In their first count, the plaintiffs
asserted a common law claim for breach of contract, alleging
that, despite Golden’s compliance with all terms,
conditions, and duties imposed upon her by the insurance
policy, Brethren had failed to make any payments under the
UIM provision of the policy. In their second count, the
plaintiffs asserted a statutory claim of bad faith under 42
Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 8371, based on Brethren’s
alleged failure to reasonably investigate and pay their UIM
coverage claims. In lieu of an answer, Brethren has filed a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the action. (Doc. 8.) The
motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition. (Doc. 9;
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes a
defendant to move to dismiss for “failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed. R. Civ.
P. 12(b)(6). “Under Rule 12(b)(6), a motion to dismiss
may be granted only if, accepting all well-pleaded
allegations in the complaint as true and viewing them in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff, a court finds the
plaintiff’s claims lack facial plausibility.”
Warren Gen. Hosp. v. Amgen Inc., 643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d
Cir. 2011) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555–56 (2007)). In deciding the motion,
the Court may consider the facts alleged on the face of the
complaint, as well as “documents incorporated into the
complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take
judicial notice.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues
& Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). Although
the Court must accept the fact allegations in the complaint
as true, it is not compelled to accept “unsupported
conclusions and unwarranted inferences, or a legal conclusion
couched as a factual allegation.” Morrow v.
Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 165 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting
Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir.
2007)). Nor is it required to credit factual allegations
contradicted by indisputably authentic documents on which the
complaint relies or matters of public record of which we may
take judicial notice. In re Washington Mut. Inc.,
741 Fed. App’x 88, 91 n.3 (3d Cir. Sept. 25, 2018);
Sourovelis v. City of Philadelphia, 246 F.Supp.3d
1058, 1075 (E.D. Pa. 2017); Banks v. Cty. of
Allegheny, 568 F.Supp.2d 579, 588–89 (W.D. Pa.
Breach of Contract Claim
Count I, the plaintiffs assert a breach of contract claim
against Brethren based on its failure to pay UIM benefits.
party asserting a breach of contract claim under Pennsylvania
law must demonstrate (1) the existence of a contract; (2) a
breach of duty imposed by the contract; and (3) resultant
damages.” Smith v. Allstate Ins. Co., 904
F.Supp.2d 515, 521 (W.D. Pa. 2012). “In Pennsylvania, a
duty of good faith and fair dealing is implicit in an
insurance contract.” Simmons v. Nationwide Mut.
Fire Ins. Co., 788 F.Supp.2d 404, 408 (W.D. Pa. 2011);
Smith, 904 F.Supp.2d at 521 (quoting
Simmons); see also Northview Motors, Inc. v.
Chrysler Motors Corp., 227 F.3d 78, 91 (3d Cir. 2000)
(“[Under Pennsylvania law,] every contract has an
implied term that the parties will perform their duties in
stage, the parties do not dispute the existence of a contract
or resultant damages. Brethren has moved to dismiss Count I
of the complaint for failure to state a claim on the ground
that the plaintiffs have failed to allege a breach of duty
imposed by the contract. Brethren notes that the plaintiffs
have failed to allege that Brethren expressly denied the
plaintiff’s UIM claim. Brethren argues that the mere
allegation that Brethren has not paid UIM benefits is
insufficient to allege a breach of the policy.
disagree. The plaintiffs were seriously injured in an
automobile accident on December 21, 2016. The complaint
alleges that Golden complied with the terms of the insurance
policy at issue, which included a requirement that she
provide Brethren with reasonable notice of the accident and
that she cooperate in its investigation of her claim. We find
that we may reasonably infer from the facts alleged in the
complaint that the injuries suffered by the plaintiffs were
severe enough that Stevenson lacked adequate automobile
insurance coverage to fully compensate the plaintiffs for
their injuries. The complaint alleges that, as of its filing
on December 21, 2018-two years after the plaintiffs were
injured in the automobile collision at issue-Brethren had
failed to make any payments whatsoever to them under the
policy’s UIM coverage provision.
“fixed, permanent refusal to pay the proceeds of a
policy” is not required “for a finding of breach
of the insurer’s duty of good faith; it is enough if
the payment is delayed for an inordinate and unreasonable
period of time . . . .” Bodnar v. Nationwide Mut.
Ins. Co., No. 3:12-CV-1337, 2013 WL 2147807, at *15
(M.D. Pa. May 16, 2013). Thus, accepting the facts alleged in
the complaint as true and viewing them in the light ...