PLAINTIFF FAILS TO PLEAD FACTS SETTING OUT A PLAUSIBLE BAD FAITH CLAIM (Middle District)

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This is a first party property damage breach of contract and bad faith case.  The insurer denied coverage on the basis that the loss was not covered under the policy.  The insurer moved to dismiss the bad faith claim only.

Middle District Judge Brann gives a lengthy history of the plausibility federal pleading standards announced via Twombly and Iqbal.  This is a prelude to his describing the flaws in plaintiff’s pleading, which Judge Brann ultimate gave leave to amend after granting a motion to dismiss, without prejudice.

Plaintiff’s pleading problems are two-fold: (1) conclusory allegations are meaningless under the federal pleading standards and (2) factual pleadings do not state a claim where the facts, even taken as true, do not make out a plausible bad faith case against the defendant insurer.

To quote Judge Brann:

“The claim [plaintiff] brings for bad faith cannot survive as pled. Almost half of the allegations in the complaint are conclusory and receive no pleading presumption of truthfulness. The other half do not establish any bad faith. The well-pled facts span from paragraphs 1-17. Those facts establish the breach of contract claim – which State Farm has not disputed – but the remaining facts are either irrelevant to the issue of bad faith, not well pled, or simply legal conclusions.”

Thus, the bad faith claim was dismissed without prejudice, and with leave to amend if plaintiff could meet these very clearly explained pleading standards.

Date of Decision:  July 16, 2021

Marks v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, U.S. District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania No. 4:21-CV-00307, 2021 WL 3022637 (M.D. Pa. July 16, 2021) (Brann, J.)

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