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Tomkiel v. Hartford Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

April 14, 2014

HENRY TOMKIEL, Plaintiff(s)
v.
HARTFORD CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant(s)

ORDER

JAMES C. MAHAN, District Judge.

Presently before the court is defendant Hartford Casualty Insurance Company's ("defendant") partial motion to dismiss plaintiff Henry Tomkiel's complaint. (Doc. # 7). Plaintiff has responded (doc. # 10), and defendant has replied (doc. # 12).

I. Background Facts

The instant dispute arises out of an insurance contract. (Doc. # 7 at 1). On July 21, 2011 an under-insured motorist struck plaintiff's automobile. (Doc. # 1-5 at 8-9). As a result of the accident, plaintiff sustained injuries to his body. (Doc. #1-5 at 9).

Plaintiff was insured under a policy issued by defendant at the time of the accident. (Doc. # 7 at 1). The policy provided for, inter alia, an under-insured motorist benefit. (Doc. # 7 at 1-2). A dispute arose between plaintiff and defendant as to plaintiff's entitlement to under-insured motorist benefits. Accordingly, plaintiff initiated the instant suit alleging four causes of action: (1) breach of contract; (2) contractual breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (3) tortious breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and (4) unfair trade practices. (Doc. # 7 at 2). Defendant now moves to dismiss plaintiff's extra-contractual claims: plaintiff's second, third, and fourth causes of action.

II. Legal Standard

A court may dismiss a plaintiff's complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A properly pled complaint must provide "[a] short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). While Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, it demands "more than labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citation omitted). "Factual allegations must be enough to rise above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citation omitted).

In Iqbal, the Supreme Court clarified the two-step approach district courts are to apply when considering motions to dismiss. First, the court must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations in the complaint; however, legal conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Id. at 1950. Mere recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported only by conclusory statements, do not suffice. Id. at 1949. Second, the court must consider whether the factual allegations in the complaint allege a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 1950. A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff's complaint alleges facts that allows the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Id. at 1949.

Where the complaint does not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has "alleged - but not shown - that the pleader is entitled to relief." Id. (internal quotations omitted). When the allegations in a complaint have not crossed the line from conceivable to plausible, plaintiff's claim must be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

III. Discussion

(1) Contractual breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing

The contractual covenant of good faith is an obligation independent of consensual contractual covenants. Morris v. Bank of Am. Nev., 886 P.2d 454, 457 n.2 (Nev. 1994). A contractual breach of covenant arises where a party to the contract honors the express terms, but deliberately contravenes the intent and spirit of the contract. Hilton Hotels Corp. v. Butch Lewis Prods., 808 P.2d 919, 922-23 (Nev. 1991).

Plaintiff argues under his breach of contract claim that defendant did not comply with the express terms of the insurance policy by denying plaintiff benefits due under the under-insured motorist provision. Plaintiff asserts he is owed the policy limit under the insurance contract between him and defendant. Therefore, plaintiff alleges facts establishing a violation of the express terms of the policy, thereby negating the possibility of a valid claim for breach of the contractual covenant of good faith. See Kennedy v. Carriage Cemetery Servs., 727 F.Supp.2d 925, 931 (D. Nev. 2010). Plaintiff does not argue in any manner that defendant executed its contractual obligations under the insurance policy.

Accordingly, a breach of contract cause of action is appropriate in the instant matter and contractual breach of the implied covenant of good faith ...


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