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The insured brought bad faith claims for failure to pay UIM benefits and wage loss benefits.  The insurer unsuccessfully moved to dismiss those claims.

The facts set out in the Complaint allege a detailed history of the insured providing information and documentation to the carrier, making demands that the carrier investigate, evaluate pay the claim, and the carrier’s failure to timely respond to the insured, properly investigate and its delay in making settlement offers.  This set out more than bare bones conclusory allegations, and was sufficient to state a bad faith claim.

Western District Judge Colville finds “that the Complaint describes in sufficient detail the ‘facts that describe who, what, where, when, and how the alleged bad faith conduct occurred.’” Judge Colville cites Western District Judge Bissoon’s Mondron opinion to support this conclusion.

After setting forth the numerous factual allegations at length, “and viewing them in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, as this Court must do at this stage of the proceedings, the Court finds that Plaintiff has alleged facts which tend to support a lack of any investigation or evaluation … of Plaintiff’s underinsured motorist benefits claim despite Plaintiff’s counsel’s requests for the same, repeated failure on [the insurer’s] part to communicate with Plaintiff’s counsel despite Plaintiff’s counsel’s attempts to contact [the insurer], and, accordingly, an entirely unexplained delay of seven months between Plaintiff’s demand and Nationwide’s offer. Considering the “entire course of alleged dilatory conduct, … the Court finds that Plaintiff has set forth sufficient allegations to support a claim for bad faith related to Nationwide’s handling of Plaintiff’s claim for underinsured motorists benefits….”  Judge Colville cites Middle District Judge Caputo’s 2017 Meyers opinion, summarized here, to support this conclusion.

UTPCPL Claims Based on Claim Handling Cannot Proceed

Judge Colville did dismiss the insured’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL).  The UTPCPL does not apply to claim handling, but only conduct prior to entry of the insurance agreement.  In this case, the allegations all involved claim handling, not the sale of an insurance policy.

MVFRL Section Addressing First Party Benefits Does Not Apply to UIM Claims

The court also agreed that 75 Pa.C.S.A § 1716 of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law addressing first part benefits does not apply to UIM claims, and dismissed those claims as well.

Motion to Strike Reference to Fiduciary Duty Denied, Without Prejudice

Next, the Court refused to strike references to fiduciary duty in the complaint.

While appearing to recognize that insurers do not owe insureds a fiduciary duty in the UIM context, the insured had not asserted a claim for breach of fiduciary duty.  Further, there was no need for the drastic remedy of striking an allegation at this early stage of the case.  The motion to strike was denied, without prejudice, if there were any changes arising later raising the need to challenge a fiduciary duty claim.

Date of Decision: March 28, 2022

WINGROVE v. NATIONWIDE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, U. S. District Court Western District of Pennsylvania No. 2:21-CV 00940, 2022 WL 912590 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 28, 2022) (Colville, J.)