LANCASTER, July 11 – A Federal District Judge has ruled that an amended complaint sufficiently alleges that GEICO sought to avoid a UIM claim in bad faith on grounds that the vehicle in question was not added to the subject policy. In Reidi v. Geico Casualty Co., U.S. Middle District Judge Lawrence Stengel found that the insureds sufficiently alleged Geico failed to follow its own policy language guaranteeing coverage for new vehicles if they were reported to the company within 30 days of acquisition.
After granting Plaintiff’s leave to file an amended complaint following a motion to dismiss which Geico filed to the original complaint, the Judge held that the newer pleading sufficiently alleged breach of contract and bad faith.
After purchasing a new car, Ms. Reidi and her son were involved in an accident with an uninsured motor vehicle. The insureds made a claim for UIM benefits to Geico, which denied the claim because the the newly purchased car was not listed an insured vehicle at the time of the accident. Ms. Reidi brought suit against Geico including claims for breach of contract and statutory bad faith.
In the amended complaint, the insureds attached their automobile policy which assured coverage to plaintiffs “as long as they request a car be added to the policy within 30 days of acquiring the car.”
Judge Stengel found that reference to the specific policy language re newly acquired vehicles was sufficient allegation of bad faith. He wrote, “an insurance company ignoring its costumer’s claim in the face of its own policy language clearly guaranteeing coverage for the very claim at issue certainly forms the basis for a bad faith claim.”
Editor’s Note: This particular fact pattern provides very unfavorable optics for the insurer, and can easily, in the hands of competent plaintiff’s bad faith counsel, be made to look as if the insurer was attempting to use a technicality to avoid its coverage obligation — a technicality that its own policy took care of with the after-acquired vehicle provision.