United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage
JOHN E. KURZ; MICHELLE M. KURZ, Plaintiffs,
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendant.
OPINION [DKT. NO. 15]
RENÉE MARIE BUMB, United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court upon the filing of a Motion to
Dismiss [Dkt. No. 15] by Defendant State Farm Fire and
Casualty Company (“State Farm” or
“Defendant”). State Farm seeks to dismiss
Plaintiffs John E. Kurz and Michelle Kurz's (the
“Plaintiffs”) Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
Factual and Procedural Background
following facts are taken from Plaintiffs' Complaint and
are accepted as true for the purposes of this review.
own the real property located at 397 Friendship Road (a/k/a
102 Harmony Road), Clarksboro, New Jersey (the
“Property”) and have resided there at all times
relevant to this case. (Compl. ¶ 1, 3, 8). On August 28,
2011, Hurricane Irene hit New Jersey, resulting in high wind
speeds that damaged the Property. (Id. at ¶ 3).
On October 29-30, 2012, just over a year after Hurricane
Irene hit New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy struck the state.
(Id. at ¶ 8). The winds from the Hurricane also
caused damage to the Property. (Id.)
time of each of these storms, Plaintiffs had a
homeowner's insurance policy issued by Defendant, Policy
Number 30-CD-3885-0 (the “Policy”). (Id.
at ¶ 4, 9). The Policy was effective as of March 19,
2011, and had a one-year policy period subject to automatic
annual renewal upon payment of the required premiums.
(Id. at ¶ 14). Plaintiffs made claims under
this policy after both Hurricane Irene (claim number
30-Y012-157) and Hurricane Sandy (claim number 30-3K75-117).
(Id. at ¶ 5, 10). Defendant denied portions of
both of these claims. (Id. at ¶ 5, 6, 11, 12).
October 11, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a six-count Complaint in
the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Civil Part,
Gloucester County (Docket Number GLO-L-1232-16) seeking
declaratory judgments as to coverage for the damage to the
Property from Hurricane Irene (Count I) and Hurricane Sandy
(Count II), and alleging breach of contract (Count III),
breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing (Count
IV), unjust enrichment (Count V), and “any and all
additional causes of action as are permitted under the laws
of the State of New Jersey, its statutes and common
law” (Count VI). Plaintiffs' claims each boil down
to the following contention: Defendant wrongly refused to
provide Plaintiffs with the coverage to which they were
entitled under the Policy.
November 21, 2016, Defendant removed the case to this Court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)(1). Defendant filed this Motion to Dismiss on
February 1, 2017, seeking, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), an
Order dismissing Plaintiffs' Complaint in its entirety
or, in the alternative, dismissing Counts IV, V, and VI,
along with Plaintiffs' claims for consequential damages
and attorney's fees. Plaintiffs filed their opposition on
February 21, 2017.
withstand a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6),
“a 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 Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 662.
“[A]n unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation” does not suffice to survive a motion to
dismiss. Id. at 678. “[A] plaintiff's
obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his
‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels
and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements
of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S.
265, 286 (1986)).
reviewing a plaintiff's allegations, the district court
“must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations
as well as all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from
them, and construe those allegations in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff.” Bistrian v. Levi,
696 F.3d 352 n.1 (3d Cir. 2012). When undertaking this
review, courts are limited to the allegations found in the
complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of
public record, and undisputedly authentic documents that form
the basis of a claim. See In re Burlington Coat Factory
Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997);
Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus.,
Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).
New Jersey law, “determination of the proper coverage
of an insurance contract is a question of law.”
Cnty. of Gloucester v. Princeton Ins. Co., 317
Fed.Appx. 156, 159 (3d Cir. 2008). “[T]he first step in
examining an insurance contract is to determine whether an
ambiguity exists.” Pittston Co. Ultramar America
Ltd. v. Allianz Ins. Co., 124 F.3d 508, 520 (3d Cir.
1997). An ambiguity exists when “the phrasing of the
policy is so confusing that the average policyholder cannot
make out the boundaries of coverage.” Weedo v.
Stone-E-Brick, Inc., 81 N.J. 233, 247, 405 A.2d 788
(1979). In determining whether an ambiguity exists, it is
also important to remember that insurance contracts are
generally viewed as contracts of adhesion, and accordingly,
ambiguities in their language are interpreted against the
drafter. Cnty. of Gloucester, 317 Fed.Appx. at 161.
the terms of an insurance contract are clear, [however, ] it
is the function of a court to enforce it as written and not
make a better contract for either of the parties.”
Kampf v. Franklin Life Ins. Co., 33 N.J. 36, 43, 161
A.2d 717 (1960) (internal citation omitted). Moreover,
“[a]bsent statutory [prohibitions], an insurance
company has the right to impose whatever conditions it
desires prior to assuming its obligations and such provisions
should be construed in accordance with the language
support of its Motion to Dismiss, Defendant raises the
(1) Any claims with respect to coverage for damage caused by
Hurricane Irene (Counts I, III, IV, V) are time-barred by the
“Suit Against Us” provision in the Policy;
(2) Any claims with respect to coverage for damage caused by
Hurricane Sandy (Counts II, III, IV, V) are barred under the
Policy because Plaintiffs failed to cooperate with Defendant
and provide all required information, as mandated by the