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Ranieli v. State Farm Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

November 19, 2019




         Before the court for disposition is Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company's (hereinafter “defendant”) motion to dismiss portions of plaintiff's complaint. The parties have briefed their respective positions, and the matter is ripe for disposition.


         Plaintiff Joseph J. Ranieli was operating a motor vehicle in a southerly direction on Main Street, Dupont, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania on July 27, 2009. (Doc. 1-1 ¶¶ 4, 7). His automobile was rear-ended while stopped at a red traffic light by an automobile driven by Eugene Anderson. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9).

         The accident caused plaintiff to suffer, inter alia, the following injuries: cervical disc disease, cervical facet syndrome, cervical strain, disc bulge with superimposed disc protrusions, lumbar strain, headaches, anxiety and depression. (Id. ¶ 10).

         Plaintiff had an automobile insurance policy issue through Defendant State Farm Insurance. Plaintiff sought underinsured motorist benefit under the policy seeking the policy limits, but the defendant denied the claim. Plaintiff then filed the instant complaint, asserting the following causes of action against the defendant: 1) Breach of Contract, (Doc. 1-1, ¶¶ 16 - 23); and 2) Bad Faith pursuant to 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 8371. (Id. ¶¶ 24 - 29). The breach of contract cause of action seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, interest, cost of suit and attorney's fees. (Id. foll. ¶ 23). The bad faith claim seeks the same damages. (Id. foll. ¶ 29). Defendant has moved pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss the bad faith claim and the claim for attorney's fees and punitive damages in the breach of contract count. The parties have briefed their respective positions, bringing the case to its present posture.


         The court has jurisdiction pursuant to the diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiff is a citizen of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1, Notice of Removal ¶ 2). Defendant State Farm is incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois with its principal place of business in Bloomington, Illinois. (Id. ¶ 8). Thus, defendant is a citizen of Illinois. (Id. ¶ 9). Additionally, the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. (Id. ¶ 11). Because complete diversity of citizenship exists among the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, the court has jurisdiction over this case. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (Adistrict courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between . . . citizens of different states[.]@); 28 U.S.C. § 1441 (A defendant can generally move a state court civil action to federal court if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction to address the matter pursuant to the diversity jurisdiction statute). As a federal court sitting in diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the instant case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tomkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).

         Legal Standard

         Defendant filed its motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court tests the sufficiency of the complaint's allegations when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. All well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be viewed as true and in the light most favorable to the non-movant to determine whether, “‘under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'” Colburn v. Upper Darby Twp., 838 F.2d 663, 665-66 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Estate of Bailey by Oare v. Cnty. of York, 768 F.2d 503, 506 (3d Cir. 1985)). The plaintiff must describe “‘enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' [each] necessary element” of the claims alleged in the complaint. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Moreover, the plaintiff must allege facts that “justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the next stage of litigation.” Id. at 234-35. In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint the court may also consider “matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case.” Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). The court does not have to accept legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. See Curay-Cramer v. Ursuline Acad. of Wilmington, Del., Inc., 450 F.3d 130, 133 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)).

         The federal rules require only that plaintiff provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” a standard which “does not require detailed factual allegations, ” but a plaintiff must make “a showing, rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief that rises above the speculative level.” McTernan v. N.Y.C., 564 F.3d 636, 646 (3d Cir. 2009) (citations and internal quotations and quotation marks omitted). The “complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Such “facial plausibility” exists “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[T]he factual detail in a complaint [cannot be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8.” Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232 (citation omitted). “Though a complaint ‘does not need detailed factual allegations, . . . a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” DelRio-Mocci v. Connolly Props., Inc., 672 F.3d 241, 245 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).


         As noted above, defendant seeks dismissal of two aspects of the complaint. First, it seeks the dismissal of the bad faith claim and second it seeks the dismissal of certain damages sought under the breach of contract claim. We will address these issues in turn.

         I. ...

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