JUNE 2013 BAD FAITH CASES: COURT DISMISSES STAND-ALONE COMMON LAW BAD FAITH CLAIM (Philadelphia Federal)

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The plaintiff suffered severe injuries after a car crash in which she was ejected from the vehicle. The opposing driver had a policy with a limit of $15,000, which were tendered to the plaintiff. Plaintiff’s insurer (the “carrier”) approved the settlement, and the carrier agreed to allow plaintiff to file a claim for UIM coverage under her father’s policy with whom she was living at the time of the accident. Her father’s policy included $300,000 in stacked UIM coverage. The carrier made an offer to the plaintiff, who found the amount to be insufficient to cover her injuries. She then filed suit alleging breach of contract, statutory bad faith, breach of fiduciary duty, common law bad faith, and violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.

The carrier filed a motion to dismiss, including a motion to dismiss a stand-alone count alleging common law bad faith; though the carrier did not seek to dismiss the statutory bad faith claim.

On the common law bad faith issue, the court noted an independent cause of action for breach of a duty of good faith and fair dealing is only available in very limited circumstances. In circumstances where a plaintiff brings a claim for a breach of contract, they are precluded from also bringing a claim for common law bad faith because “the actions forming the basis of the breach of contract claim are essentially the same actions forming the basis of the bad faith claim.”

In plaintiff’s first count, she brought a breach of contract claim that also alleges a breach of common law duty of good faith and fair dealing; and her fourth count was a stand-alone common law bad faith claim. The court dismissed the common law bad faith claim, stating the plaintiff would be pursuing the same cause of action under the breach of contract claim.

Date of Opinion: April 30, 2013

Tubman v. USAA Cas. Ins. Co., CIVIL ACTION NO. 12-cv-7121, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61022 (E.D.Pa. April 30, 2013) (Brody, J.)

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