Iqbal Used To Dismiss Bad Faith Claims Against Foremost

CSCC-Lawsuit-Dismissed

SCRANTON, Aug. 5 — A federal magistrate judge has granted Foremost Insurance’s motion to dismiss a bad faith claim on the grounds it did not meet minimum fact pleading requirements under federal law.  The judge found that the Plaintiff’s reliance solely on the allegation of a breach of contract count and the bare language of the Pa. Bad Faith Statute were not enough to allow the claim to survive.

Plaintiff Beata Rogowski bought a policy of  homeowners insurance from Foremost Insurance Co. and filed a claim for fire damage sustained in her home.  After disagreements arose during the claim, Rogowski sued Foremost in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, claiming that Foremost did not properly handle adjustment of the claim.  She alleged both a breach of contract count and a bad faith count.

Foremost filed a motion to dismiss both claims, but Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson granted the motion only as to the bad faith count, finding it not to have been properly plead.

Judge Carlson wrote:

“In reaching this conclusion, we note that [the bad faith] count of the plaintiff’s complaint consists of little more than a paraphrase of the statute, coupled with a factual assertion that the defendant has breached the insurance policy in ways which are undefined, but allegedly willful and malicious. Upon consideration, we conclude that these ‘[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice’ to state a claim under [42 Pa. Consolidated Statutes Annotated] §8371. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009). In this bad faith context, we require more than conclusory, bare-bones allegations that an insurance company acted in bad faith to sustain such a claim. Since Rogowski has not met these pleading requirements in her current, spare complaint the bad faith claim set forth in Count II of the complaint should be dismissed. However, mindful of the fact that plaintiffs often should be afforded an opportunity to further amend and articulate their bad faith claims, it is recommended that this count of the complaint be dismissed without prejudice to the filing of an amended complaint which meets the pleading standards prescribed by law for such claims.”

Judge Carlson also found the complaint not sufficiently specific to allow him at that point to dismiss the breach of contract count on grounds it was time-barred:

“Given the legal and factual ambiguity of the plaintiff’s complaint, an ambiguity which prevent[s] us from determining whether there are any barriers to the application of the contractual terms which call for the filing of a lawsuit within one year of the alleged loss, we believe that the plaintiff should be required to provide a more definite statement of this claim before the Court is tasked with assessing the legal merits of this motion to dismiss. Therefore, it is recommended that the plaintiff be directed pursuant to [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] Rule 12(e) to submit a more definite statement of this claim. Upon receipt of this more definite statement the Court could then determine whether that claim is time-barred.”

Beata Rogowski v. Foremost Insurance Co., No. 15-1606, M.D. Pa.; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95930 (Carlson, Dist. Mag. Judge)

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Author: CJ Haddick

C.J. Haddick is a Director with the law firm of Dickie, McCamey, & Chilcote, PC, based in Pittsburgh, Pa. He has advised and represented insurers in insurance coverage and bad faith litigation for more than a quarter of a century, and written and spoken throughout the United States on insurance coverage and bad faith prevention and litigation. He is Managing Director of the firm's Harrisburg, Pa. office. Reach him at chaddick@dmclaw.com or 717-731-4800.

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