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Gildas v. Financial Pacific Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

December 9, 2019



         Presently before the court is defendant Financial Pacific Insurance Company's (“defendant”) motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, sever/bifurcate and stay plaintiff's claims for bad faith. (ECF No. 6). Plaintiff William Gildas (“plaintiff”) filed a response (ECF No. 7), to which defendant replied (ECF No. 9).

         I. Background

         The instant action arises from a dispute regarding the valuation of an underinsured motorist claim. On November 24, 2014, plaintiff was driving a vehicle owned by his employer, Done Right Plumbing, Inc. (“Done Right”). (ECF No. 1-1 at 3). Done Right had an underinsured and/or uninsured motorist (“UIM”) policy with defendant. Id. at 5. Non-party driver Eric Espinoza-Cuellar hit plaintiff's vehicle and fled the scene. Id. at 3.

         Plaintiff sustained “severe injuries and damages, ” which included “extensive medical special damages.” Id. at 4. Ezpinoza-Cuellar had an insurance policy with GEICO Casualty Co. (“Geico”) with a $15, 000 per-person policy limit. Id. at 3. Geico tendered its $15, 000 policy limit to plaintiff. Id. Due to the extent of plaintiff's damages, however, the Geico's $15, 000 policy limit was not enough to compensate plaintiff for his damages. Id. at 4.

         Thus, plaintiff notified defendant that he had a claim under his employer's UIM policy. Id. Defendant acknowledged the claim, requested additional information, and ultimately offered plaintiff $25, 000. Id. Plaintiff declined the $25, 000 as insufficient and requested a certified copy of the UIM policy. Id. Plaintiff alleges that defendant's refusal to pay the policy limits was made in bad faith and “without a reasonable basis in fact or law.” Id.

         Plaintiff then filed the instant action in the Eighth Judicial District Court, alleging breach of contract, bad faith, unfair claims practices, and unjust enrichment against defendant.[1] The complaint was timely removed to this court. (ECF No. 1). Defendant now moves to dismiss plaintiff's bad faith claim or, in the alternative, sever/bifurcate and stay the bad faith claim until plaintiff's breach of contract claim is resolved. (ECF No. 6).

         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 unfair to require the opposing party to be subjected to the expense of discovery and continued litigation.


         B. Motion to bifurcate

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(b) states, in relevant part, that “[f]or convenience, to avoid prejudice, or to expedite and economize, the court may order a separate trial of one or more separate issues, claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, or third-party claims.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 42. The decision to bifurcate is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. Hirst v. Gertzen, 676 F.2d 1252, 1261 (9th Cir .1982). Bifurcation is appropriate when it simplifies the issues for the jury and avoids the danger of unnecessary jury confusion. Id. Bifurcation is particularly appropriate when resolution of a single claim or issue could be dispositive of the entire case. See O'Malley v. United States Fidelity and Guaranty Co., 776 F.2d 494, 501 (5th Cir. 1985) (‚ÄúSince a recovery on the ...

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