FAITH v. STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY
OPINION AND ORDER granting in part and denying in part 10 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim: the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs claim for breach of fiduciary duty is granted, but the Motion to Dismiss his bad faith claim under 42 Pa. C.S. § 8371 is denied. Defendant shall answer Plaintiffs Complaint within 21 days of this Order. Signed by Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly on 9/8/2021. (ndf)
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE
Civil Action No. 21-cv-0013
Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly
Re: ECF No. 10
OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Zachary Faith (“Faith”), a Pennsylvania resident, brings a state law insurance bad
faith claim against Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”),
an Illinois company. Faith alleges that State Farm engaged in bad faith when it failed to pay the
proceeds of an underinsured motorist policy following an automobile accident in which Faith was
Presently before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed on behalf of State Farm. ECF No.
10. For the reasons that follow, the Motion to Dismiss will be granted as to Faith’s breach of
fiduciary duty claim but denied as to all remaining claims. 1
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Faith alleges the following facts, all of which are presumed to be true for purposes of
resolving the pending Motion to Dismiss.
On August 11, 2018, Faith was driving westbound on Route 422 when he was struck by a
vehicle traveling eastbound that entered his lane of travel. A second vehicle then collided with
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge
to conduct all proceedings in this case. ECF Nos. 22 and 23.
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Faith’s vehicle. As a result of this collision, Faith suffered serious injuries, including impairment
of bodily functions, serious disfigurement and cervical spine protrusion and tears, with radicular
components, as well as lost earnings and earning capacity, and emotional injuries. Faith alleges
that the proceeds of the tortfeasor’s insurance policy are insufficient to compensate him adequately
for his injuries.
At the time of the accident, Faith was the owner and operator of a motor vehicle covered
by a State Farm policy that provided underinsured motorist coverage of $50,000. Faith presented
State Farm with a claim for the proceeds of his policy and, since this litigation began, has provided
medical documentation demonstrating the severity of his injuries and a “Life Care Plan” reflecting
that he will incur $388,117 in future medical care and related expenses. Despite this information,
State Farm has failed to remit the proceeds of the policy and has instead required Faith to litigate
his entitlement to the full value of the policy.
Faith began this action with the filing of a Complaint that failed to establish this Court’s
jurisdiction over his state law claim. ECF No. 1. He then filed a First Amended Complaint that
sufficiently alleged the diversity of the parties under 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and set forth a claim related
to the underlying tortfeasor’s negligence and a claim against State Farm for underinsured motorist
(“UIM”) benefits. ECF No. 3. Faith followed with the filing of the operative Second Amended
Complaint and added a claim against State Farm for the violation of Pennsylvania’s insurance bad
faith statute. ECF No. 9. Faith alleges that the amount in controversy therefore exceeds the sum
of $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs.
State Farm filed the pending Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for bad faith on which relief may be granted. ECF No. 10. State
Farm also moves to strike allegations that it breached a fiduciary duty owed to Faith because, as
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a matter of law, no such duty is owed by an insurer to its insured. Id. Faith concedes that no
fiduciary duty is owed and, accordingly, the Motion to Dismiss this claim is granted.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A complaint may be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for “failure
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” “[D]etailed pleading is not generally required.”
Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 786 (3d Cir. 2016). Rather, the rules require “only
a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to
give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Id.
(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)) (internal quotations omitted).
Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face” by providing facts which “permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of
misconduct.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678–79 (2009).
In assessing the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must accept as true all material
allegations in the complaint and all reasonable factual inferences must be viewed in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. Odd v. Malone, 538 F.3d 202, 205 (3d Cir. 2008). The Court, however,
need not accept bald assertions or inferences drawn by the plaintiff if they are unsupported by the
facts set forth in the complaint. See Cal. Pub. Employees’ Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d
126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.
1997)). Nor must the Court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the United States Supreme Court has held that
a complaint is properly dismissed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) where the factual content does
not allow the court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d
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224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (finding that, under Twombly, “labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action” do not suffice. The complaint therefore “must allege
facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct” and that are sufficient “to raise a reasonable
expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s] of his claim.”). Id. at
Under Pennsylvania law, an insured may bring a statutory bad faith claim against their
insurer. See 42 Pa. C.S. § 8371. Bad faith is distinct from any underlying breach of contract claim,
and “extends to the handling of UIM claim.” Brown v. Progressive Ins. Co., 860 A.2d 493, 500
(Pa. Super. 2004) (citing Bonenberger v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 791 A.2d 378, 381 (Pa. Super.
2002)); Nealy v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 695 A.2d 790, 791 (Pa. Super. 1997), appeal den.,
717 A.2d 1028 (Pa. 1998).
To state a claim for bad faith under Section 8371, an insured must allege facts that plausibly
establish: (1) the insurer had no “reasonable basis” for its actions; and (2) that the insurer “knew
of or recklessly disregarded” the fact that it lacked a reasonable basis for its conduct. Rancosky v.
Wash. Nat’l Ins. Co., 170 A.3d 364, 365 (Pa. 2017). “[A]ctions constituting bad faith are not
limited solely to a denial of coverage—bad faith may also include a lack of investigation,
unnecessary or unfounded investigation, failure to communicate with the insured, or failure to
promptly acknowledge or act on claims.” Ironshore Specialty Ins. Co. v. Conemaugh Health Sys.,
Inc., 423 F. Supp. 3d 139, 154–55 (W.D. Pa. 2019), reconsideration denied, No. 3:18-CV-153,
2020 WL 376994 (W.D. Pa. Jan. 23, 2020) (citing Frog, Switch & Mfg. Co. v. Travelers Ins. Co.,
193 F.3d 742, 751 n.9 (3d Cir. 1999)). “Bad faith can also include poor claims-handling, the
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insurer’s failure to act with diligence or respond to the insured, scattershot investigation, and
similar conduct.” Id. (citing Rancosky, 170 A.3d at 379 (Wecht, J., concurring)).
As particularly relevant to the allegations here, “bad faith is actionable regardless of
whether it occurs before, during or after litigation…. [Moreover], using litigation in a bad faith
effort to evade a duty owed under a policy would be actionable under Section 8371.” Hart v.
Progressive Preferred Ins. Co., No. 17-1158, 2017 WL 11485593, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 6, 2017)
(quoting W.V. Realty, Inc. v. Northern Ins. Co., 334 F.3d 306, 313 (3d Cir. 2003)). The required
inquiry is fact specific and “depend[s] on the conduct of the insurer vis à vis the insured.” Condio
v. Erie Ins. Exch., 899 A.2d 1136, 1143 (Pa. Super. 2006).
Here, State Farm contends that Faith merely alleges “vague, boilerplate allegations of
‘failing to pay the claim’ and ‘failing to properly evaluate the claim,’” and therefore alleges “a
patently insufficient” claim for bad faith. ECF No. 12 at 4 (citing Smith v. State Farm Mut. Auto.
Ins. Co., 506 F. App’x 133, 137 (3d Cir. 2012)). State Farm also finds fault with Faith’s allegations
of misconduct “during the pendency of this litigation” as failing to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted.
State Farm’s protestations to the contrary, on the existing record at this early stage of the
litigation, Faith states a plausible claim for coverage. While he will have to prove his bad faith
claim by “clear and convincing evidence,” Rancosky, 170 A.3d at 365, the allegations in the
Second Amended Complaint, construed in his favor as required when considering a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion, are enough to state a claim for bad faith. Faith alleges that State Farm failed (and continues
to fail) to investigate and process his claim given information showing the seriousness of his
injuries and resulting economic loss stemming from the accident. 2 Moreover, State Farm allegedly
See e.g., ECF No. 9 ¶ 22(g)(i)-(vi) alleging that as of February 25, 2021, Faith provided documentation and medical
records for a period immediately following the accident through October 1, 2020 connecting cervical root compression
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is “[f]orcing the plaintiff, Zachary Faith, to proceed to litigate his claims to recover underinsured
motorist benefits.” This conduct “may ... show bad faith.” Padilla v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins.
Co., 31 F. Supp. 3d 671, 676 (E.D. Pa. 2014) (citing O’Donnell ex rel. Mitro v. Allstate Ins. Co.,
734 A.2d 901, 906 (Pa. Super. 1999)).
Because Faith’s well-pleaded assertions of unreasonable claims processing adequately
state a plausible bad faith claim under Section 8371, dismissal is not warranted and the Motion to
Dismiss Count II of the Complaint is denied.
For the foregoing reasons, State Farm’s Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 10, is properly
granted in part as to Plaintiff’s breach of fiduciary duty claim but is denied as to Faith’s bad faith
claim. Accordingly, the following Order is entered:
AND NOW, upon consideration of Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance
Company’s Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 10, and the briefs filed by the parties in support and in
opposition thereto, ECF Nos. 12, 16, and 21, and for the reasons set forth in the accompanying
Opinion, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Zachary Faith’s claim
for breach of fiduciary duty is granted, but the Motion to Dismiss his bad faith claim under 42
Pa. C.S. § 8371 is denied. Defendant shall answer Plaintiff’s Complaint within 21 days of this
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, pursuant to Rule 4(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of
Appellate Procedure, if Plaintiff wishes to appeal from this Order he or she must do so within
and bilateral disc protrusion with surgical ablation to the motor vehicle accident on August 11, 2018, and reflecting
that Faith will require $388,117 in future medical care and related expenses).
Case 2:21-cv-00013-MPK Document 24 Filed 09/08/21 Page 7 of 7
thirty (30) days by filing a notice of appeal as provided in Rule 3, Fed. R. App. P., with the Clerk
of Court, United States District Court, 700 Grant Street, Room 3110, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.
/s/ Maureen P. Kelly
MAUREEN P. KELLY
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Dated: September 8, 2021
All counsel of record by Notice of Electronic Filing
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