United States District Court, D. New Jersey
B. KUGLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant State Farm Fire
and Casualty's motion to dismiss Plaintiff Yolanda
Johnson's Complaint. (Doc. No. 5.) Defendant seeks to
dismiss Plaintiff's bad faith insurance claim and
Plaintiff's request for punitive damages, consequential
damages, and attorneys' fees. For the reasons below,
Defendant's motion is GRANTED IN PART.
case involves an insurance dispute between Plaintiff and her
insurance company. The Complaint is scant at best. (Doc. No.
1, Ex. A (“Compl.”).) According to its seven
paragraph facts section, Defendant sold Plaintiff a
homeowner's insurance policy, and after a pipe ruptured
and damaged Plaintiff's property, Plaintiff sought
insurance coverage. (Id. at ¶¶ 3-7.)
Although Defendant paid some of Plaintiff's claims,
Defendant did not pay the full amount, delaying
Plaintiff's repairs and leaving portions of her home
unlivable. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9.)
then sued Defendant in state court for breach of contract
(Count I) and bad faith (Count II). (Id. at
¶¶ 10-19.) Plaintiff alleged that Defendant
breached its contract with Plaintiff by “failing to pay
all amounts due to Plaintiff” under the policy.
(Id. at ¶ 11.) Plaintiff similarly alleged that
Defendant acted in bad faith in several ways. Specifically,
Plaintiff claimed that Defendant (1) failed to properly and
promptly investigate Plaintiff's claims; (2) denied and
delayed her coverage with no debatable reason to do so; (3)
violated the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act; and (4)
unreasonably denied adjusting and paying Plaintiff's
claim. (Id. at ¶¶ 13-14.) Plaintiff
demanded consequential damages, punitive damages, and
attorneys' fees and costs. (Id. at ¶¶
removed the matter to this Court based on its diversity
jurisdiction. (Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 6.) Although Defendant
does not challenge Plaintiff's breach of contract claim,
Defendant now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's bad faith
claim and her requests for punitive damages, consequential
damages, and attorneys' fees. (Doc. No. 5
(“Def.'s Br.”) at 9.)
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court may dismiss
an action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted. When evaluating a motion to dismiss,
“courts accept all factual allegations as true,
construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable
reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to
relief.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d
203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips, 515 F.3d
at 233). A complaint survives a motion to dismiss if it
contains enough factual matter, accepted as true, to
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007).
making this determination, the court conducts a three-part
analysis. Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121,
130 (3d Cir. 2010). First, the court must “tak[e] note
of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a
claim.” Id. (quoting Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675- 79 (2009)). Second, the court
should identify allegations that, “because they are no
more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679). Finally, “where there are well-pleaded factual
allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
for relief.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679). This plausibility determination is a
“context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. A complaint
cannot survive a motion to dismiss when a court can only
infer that a claim is merely possible rather than plausible.
Bad faith (Count II)
alleges no facts to plausibly support a claim of a bad faith.
To allege bad faith in the insurance context under New Jersey
law, a plaintiff must allege facts to plausibly suggest that
the insurer (1) did not have a “fairly debatable”
reason for its failure to pay the claim, and (2) that the
insurer knew or recklessly disregarded the lack of a
reasonable basis for denying the claim. See Ketzner v.
John Hancock Mut. Life Ins. Co., 118 Fed. App'x.
594, 599 (3rd Cir. 2004) (citing Pickett v. Lloyds,
131 N.J. 457, 474 (1993)). Here, Plaintiff alleges no facts
to plausibly suggest that Defendant lacked a fairly debatable
reason for denying the claim or that it knew or recklessly
disregarded the lack of a reasonable basis for doing so.
Plaintiff simply provides bald legal conclusions in claiming
that Defendant's failure to pay amounted to bad faith.
Because conclusory allegations are not sufficient, Count II
Punitive Damages, Consequential Damages, and Attorneys'
Defendant requests that the Court dismiss “all
claims” for punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and
consequential damages. (Def.'s Br. at 9.) These, however,
are not independent “claims” but simply forms of
damages and related costs that may be available if Plaintiff
ultimately recovers on an underlying theory of liability.
See New Skies Satellites, B.V. v. Home2US
Commc'ns, Inc., 9 F.Supp.3d 459, 469-70 (D.N.J.