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Nease v. Geico Casualty Co.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 6, 2019

LUCIA SOARES NEASE, Plaintiffs,
v.
GEICO CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendants.

          ORDER

         Presently before the court is GEICO Casualty Company's (“defendant”) motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, sever and stay the case. (ECF Nos. 5, 6).[1] Plaintiff Lucia Nease (“plaintiff”) filed a single response to both motions (ECF No. 8), to which defendant replied (ECF No. 9).

         I. Facts

         The instant action arises from plaintiff's car accident with non-party Robert Sullivan (“Sullivan”). (ECF No. 1-1). Sullivan changed lanes “[s]uddenly and without warning” and collided with plaintiff's vehicle. Id. at 4. Plaintiff alleges that she sustained serious injuries. Id. In total, plaintiff asserts that her past and future medical expenses as a result of the accident totals $517, 074. Id. at 6.

         Plaintiff had and maintains an insurance policy with defendant; the policy includes underinsured motorist coverage with a $300, 000 limit. Id. at 4. Sullivan's insurance limit was $100, 000. Id. As a result of her $517, 074 claim, plaintiff argues Sullivan was an underinsured driver. Id. Plaintiff filed an underinsured motorist claim, submitted documentation in support of her damages, and demanded the policy limit from defendant. Id. at 4-6.

         Plaintiff's documentation notwithstanding, defendant retained Dr. David E. Fish to evaluate plaintiff's claim. Id. at 6. Based on Dr. Fish's valuation of plaintiff's claim-$25, 623, including pain and suffering-defendant declined coverage because it determined that Sullivan was not underinsured. Id. at 6-7.

         As a result of defendant's denial of coverage, plaintiff filed the instant action in state court on March 13, 2019. Id. Defendant removed the case to federal court on April 15, 2019. (ECF No. 1).

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Motion to dismiss

         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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (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, 556 U.S. at 678 (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 678-79. Mere recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported only by conclusory statements, do not suffice. Id.

         Second, the court must consider whether the factual allegations in the complaint allege a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 679. A claim is facially plausible when plaintiff's complaint alleges facts that allow the court to draw a reasonable inference that defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Id. at 678.

         Where the complaint does not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has “alleged - but it has not shown - that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 679. 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.

         The Ninth Circuit addressed post-Iqbal pleading standards in Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). The Starr court held,

First, to be entitled to the presumption of truth, allegations in a complaint or counterclaim may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively. Second, the factual allegations that are taken as true must plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that it is not ...

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