LIEB et al v. ALLSTATE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE CYNTHIA M. RUFE ON 12/10/14. 12/11/14 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(kw, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JANET LIEB and ED LIEB
CIVIL ACTION NO. 14-4225
ALLSTATE PROPERTY AND
CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY :
December 10, 2014
Plaintiffs filed suit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas against their automobile
insurance company (“Allstate”). Allstate removed the case to this Court on the basis of this
Court’s diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs have moved to remand, asserting that the amount in
controversy is less than the $75,000 threshold required by 28 U.S.C. § 1332, and Defendant has
moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint on the merits. For the following reasons, the motion
to remand will be denied and the motion to dismiss will be granted.
Plaintiffs allege that their vehicle, insured by Allstate, was struck by another vehicle, that
their damages resulting from the collision exceeded the amount of insurance recovered from the
tortfeasor, that they made a claim to Allstate for underinsured motorist coverage, and that
Allstate wrongfully and in bad faith denied this coverage.1 Allstate contends that Plaintiffs
waived underinsured motorist coverage; Plaintiffs argue that the waiver failed to comply with the
applicable statute and is therefore ineffective.
The original Complaint alleged in the alternative counts for underinsured and uninsured motorist
coverage, as well as bad faith. The Amended Complaint alleges only claims for underinsured motorist coverage and
MOTION TO REMAND
Removal of a civil action from state to federal court is proper only if the action initially
could have been brought in federal court.2 The removal statutes Aare to be strictly construed
against removal and all doubts should be resolved in favor of remand.@3 28 U.S.C. § 1332
provides that the federal courts have original jurisdiction over Aall civil actions where the matter
in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is
between . . . citizens of different States.@4 Removal from and remand to state court are governed
by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441, 1446, and 1447. Section 1441 provides, in relevant part, that “any civil
action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original
jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant or the defendants . . . .”5 The notice of removal
“shall be filed within 30 days after the receipt by the defendant, through service or otherwise, of
a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief upon which such action or
proceeding is based. . . .”6 After removal, a plaintiff may file a motion to remand based on either
“any defect” in the removal petition or lack of subject matter jurisdiction.7 The relevant statutes
are strictly construed in favor of remand.8
In this case, Plaintiffs argue that remand is warranted because the amount in controversy
does not exceed $75,000 for each Plaintiff, and cite to the Amended Complaint, filed after
28 U.S.C. ' 1441(a).
Boyer v. Snap-On Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990).
28 U.S.C. ' 1332(a).
28 U.S.C. § 1441.
28 U.S.C. § 1446(b)(1).
28 U.S.C. § 1447.
See Samuel-Bassett v. Kia Motors Am., Inc., 357 F.3d 392, 396 (3d Cir. 2004).
removal, which seeks damages “in an amount in excess of Fifty Thousand ($50,000) Dollars, but
not more than Seventy-Five Thousand ($75,000) plus all costs and other relief this court deems
necessary.”9 However, the amount in controversy for jurisdictional purposes is determined at the
time of removal.10 “[A] plaintiff following removal cannot destroy federal jurisdiction simply by
amending a complaint that initially satisfied the monetary floor.”11 The Complaint filed in the
Court of Common Pleas included a claim for bad faith and sought “an amount in excess of Fifty
Thousand ($50,000) Dollars plus statutory interest, punitive damages and attorney’s fees in
accordance with 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8371.”12 Plaintiffs therefore alleged that their compensatory
damages alone exceeded $50,000. Those asserted damages, when coupled with punitive
damages and attorney’s fees that are available under the bad faith statute, lead to a “reasonable
reading of the value of the rights being litigated” in excess of $75,000.13 The Court therefore
finds that Defendant has established Aby the preponderance of the evidence, that the amount in
controversy exceeds@ the jurisdictional threshold.14 The motion to remand will be denied.
MOTION TO DISMISS
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), dismissal of a complaint for failure
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted is appropriate where a plaintiff’s complaint
lacks enough substance to show that he is entitled to relief.15 In determining whether a motion to
Am. Compl. at “Wherefore” clauses.
Werwinski v. Ford Motor Co., 286 F.3d 661, 666 (3d Cir. 2002) (citation omitted).
Angus v. Shiley, Inc., 989 F.2d 142, 145 (3d Cir. 1993).
Compl. at Count III.
Angus, 989 F.2d at 146.
28 U.S.C. ' 1446(c)(2)(B). The Court did not aggregate the Plaintiffs’ claims in making this
determination. See Snyder v. Harris, 349 U.S. 332, 335 (1969).
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007).
dismiss should be granted, the court must consider only those facts alleged in the complaint,
accepting the allegations as true and drawing all logical inferences in favor of the non-moving
party.16 Courts are not, however, bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual
allegations.17 Something more than a mere possibility of a claim must be alleged; rather plaintiff
must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”18 The complaint
must set forth “direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to
sustain recovery under some viable legal theory.”19 The court has no duty to “conjure up
unpleaded facts that might turn a frivolous . . . action into a substantial one.”20 Legal questions
that depend upon a developed factual record are not properly the subject of a motion to dismiss.21
The question to be resolved on the motion to dismiss is whether, as a matter of law,
Plaintiffs executed a valid waiver of underinsured motorist coverage. Under Pennsylvania law,
an insured must affirmatively reject uninsured and underinsured coverage, which provides
protection in the event of an accident where the fault lies with a driver who lacks sufficient
insurance to compensate the injured party adequately. The Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle
Financial Responsibility Law sets forth the specific form such rejections must take to be valid:
(c) Underinsured motorist coverage.--Underinsured motorist coverage shall
provide protection for persons who suffer injury arising out of the maintenance or
use of a motor vehicle and are legally entitled to recover damages therefor from
owners or operators of underinsured motor vehicles. The named insured shall be
ALA, Inc. v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994); Fay v. Muhlenberg Coll., No. 07-4516, 2008
WL 205227, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 24, 2008).
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 564.
Id. at 570.
Id. at 562 (quoting Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101, 1106 (7th Cir. 1984)) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
Id. (quoting McGregor v. Indus. Excess Landfill, Inc., 856 F.2d 39, 42-43 (6th Cir. 1988)).
See, e.g., TriState HVAC Equip., LLP v. Big Belly Solar, Inc., 836 F. Supp. 2d 274 (E.D. Pa. 2011).
informed that he may reject underinsured motorist coverage by signing the
following written rejection form:
REJECTION OF UNDERINSURED MOTORIST PROTECTION
By signing this waiver I am rejecting underinsured motorist coverage
under this policy, for myself and all relatives residing in my household.
Underinsured coverage protects me and relatives living in my household
for losses and damages suffered if injury is caused by the negligence of a
driver who does not have enough insurance to pay for losses and
damages. I knowingly and voluntarily reject this coverage.
Signature of First Named Insured
(c.1) Form of waiver.--Insurers shall print the rejection forms required by
subsections (b) and (c) on separate sheets in prominent type and location. The
forms must be signed by the first named insured and dated to be valid. The
signatures on the forms may be witnessed by an insurance agent or broker. Any
rejection form that does not specifically comply with this section is void. If the
insurer fails to produce a valid rejection form, uninsured or underinsured
coverage, or both, as the case may be, under that policy shall be equal to the
bodily injury liability limits. On policies in which either uninsured or
underinsured coverage has been rejected, the policy renewals must contain notice
in prominent type that the policy does not provide protection against damages
caused by uninsured or underinsured motorists. Any person who executes a
waiver under subsection (b) or (c) shall be precluded from claiming liability of
any person based upon inadequate information.22
Plaintiff Ed Lieb, the first named insured, signed a form containing the statutorily
required language.23 Plaintiffs argue, however, that the rejection is invalid because Mr. Lieb did
not date the form. Instead, at the top of the form are printed: the names of the insureds, the
75 Pa. C.S. §§ 1731(c),(c.1).
Def.’s Mot. Dismiss Ex. A [Doc. 14]. The Amended Complaint attached the uninsured rejection, not the
underinsured rejection, as an exhibit. However, because the Amended Complaint specifically refers to the
underinsured rejection, the Court may consider the copy attached to the motion.
policy number, and the date. Plaintiffs argue that because Mr. Lieb did not date the form
himself, the rejection fails to comply with the statute. The Court disagrees.
Under the plain language of the statute, the form “must be signed by the first named
insured and dated to be valid.”24 The most natural reading of this provision is that the form must
be signed by the insured; it does not require that the insured also date the form. The statute
easily could have been written to require that “the form must be signed and dated by the first
named insured” had the Pennsylvania Legislature so intended.25 This conclusion is buttressed by
the statutory requirement that “[t]he named insured shall be informed that he may reject
underinsured motorist coverage by signing the following written rejection form;”26 there is no
mention of dating by the insured in this provision.27 The notice provided to Mr. Lieb complied
with the statute, Mr. Lieb signed the rejection, and the form was dated. The Court will not
impose additional requirements.
As this Court has jurisdiction over the case, remand will be denied. Because Plaintiffs’
claim fails as a matter of law and any amendment (which has not been sought) would be futile,
the case will be dismissed with prejudice. An order will be entered.
75 Pa. C.S. § 1731(c.1).
Accord State Farm Fire and Cas. Co. v. Rey, No. 94-5274, 1995 WL 241493 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 21, 1995)
(“A plain reading of § 1731 indicates that an insured waives [underinsured motorist] coverage ‘by signing’ a
rejection form with language that precisely complies with that required in § 1731(c). To be ‘valid,’ a form must be
signed but not necessarily dated by the insured. The legislature did not specify that a form ‘must be signed and dated
by the first named insured.’ Rather, § 1731(c.1) provides that the form ‘must be signed by the first named insured
and dated.’ It appears clear that any responsible party may date the form.”).
75 Pa. C.S. § 1731(c) (emphasis added).
Allstate also argues that Mr. Lieb did date the form by transmitting it by facsimile machine, which
interposed a date on the form. The Court does not base its ruling on this argument.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?