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Chamblin v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

July 19, 2018

WILLIE CHAMBLIN, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
LIBERTY MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is defendant Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company's motion to dismiss the claims brought by pro se plaintiff Willie Chamblin. (Doc. 13). Mr. Chamblin filed this case against Liberty, his insurance provider, in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama. (Doc. 1-1). He asserts several state law causes of action against Liberty based on Liberty's handling of claims that Mr. Chamblin filed for damage to his home. Liberty removed the case from state to federal court, invoking this Court's diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Doc. 1). For the reasons explained below, the Court grants Liberty's motion and dismisses Mr. Chamblin's claims.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In 1989, Mr. Chamblin bought insurance for his home in Birmingham, Alabama through Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company. (Doc. 12, p. 3). In April of 2011, a tornado damaged Mr. Chamblin's home. (Doc. 1-1, p. 14). In July of 2011, Mr. Chamblin's home suffered water damage which caused mold to grow inside his residence. (Doc. 12, p. 2; Doc. 13-1, pp. 3-4; Doc. 21, p. 6). The damage to Mr. Chamblin's home forced him to vacate temporarily and store his personal belongings while Liberty addressed his claims. (Doc. 12, pp. 3, 5).

         Pursuant to the terms of the insurance contract, Liberty and Mr. Chamblin submitted Mr. Chamblin's damages claims to two appraisers, one selected by each party. (Doc. 21, p. 7). The appraisers agreed on sums to compensate Mr. Chamblin for the storm damage, the water damage, and the costs that Mr. Chamblin incurred storing his belongings and finding temporary accommodations. (Doc. 13-1, pp. 2-4). Mr. Chamblin alleges that he had to incur living and storage expenses beyond what Liberty paid him under the appraisal because the interior damage to his home went unremediated. (Doc. 12, p. 2).

         Mr. Chamblin filed this case seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the financial hardship that Liberty allegedly caused him through its handling of his insurance claims. Since Liberty removed the case, the Court has held two telephone conferences with Mr. Chamblin and counsel for Liberty. After the first telephone conference, the Court directed Mr. Chamblin to amend his complaint. (Doc. 11). After Mr. Chamblin amended his complaint, the Court held a second telephone conference to discuss the pending motion to dismiss. During that conference, Mr. Chamblin expressed a desire to obtain the assistance of counsel. (Doc. 21, p. 12). The Court gave Mr. Chamblin a month to do so, but Mr. Chamblin continues to represent himself. (Doc. 17).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Rule 8(a)(2), the complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A motion to dismiss based on Rule 12(b)(6) asks the Court to dismiss the complaint because the plaintiff has failed to plead a claim on which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To resolve the motion to dismiss, the Court must consider whether the plaintiff has alleged facts that “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

         The facts that the plaintiff alleges must be sufficient for the Court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. At the motion to dismiss stage, the Court “must and do[es] assume that any well-pleaded allegations in the amended complaint are true.” Edwards v. Prime, Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1284 (11th Cir. 2010). “A pro se pleading is held to a less stringent standard than a pleading drafted by an attorney and is liberally construed.” Waldman v. Conway, 871 F.3d 1283, 1289 (11th Cir. 2017). “However, a pro se pleading must still suggest that there is at least some factual support for a claim.” Id.

         DISCUSSION

         In his amended complaint, Mr. Chamblin asserts claims for negligence, breach of contract, and fraud. (Doc. 12). Mr. Chamblin seeks to recover compensatory damages for the damage to his personal property and for his pain and suffering and asks the Court to award punitive damages. Liberty argues that Mr. Chamblin fails to state a claim because Liberty complied with its obligations under the insurance contract by paying Mr. Chamblin the sums awarded through the appraisal that he requested. (Doc. 13, p. 8). In support of its motion, Liberty submits a copy of the insurance contract and signed copies of the appraisals. (Docs. 8-2, 13-1). To resolve this motion, the Court considers these documents as well as the representations made by the parties during the December 19, 2017 telephone conference.[1]

         During the December telephone conference, Mr. Chamblin clarified his position in response to Liberty's contention that the appraisals precluded his claims. Mr. Chablin acknowledged that, with the help of an attorney, he exercised his right under the contract to have the damage to his home appraised by independent parties. (Doc. 21, p. 10, 14). Mr. Chamblin conceded that the appraisal process validly determined the amount he was entitled to recover for the physical damage to his home. (Doc. 21, p. 10). But Mr. Chamblin contends that the appraisal process did not compensate him for the costs he incurred storing his possessions and renting hotel rooms. Specifically, Mr. Chamblin stated that “when they [the appraisers] came up with the appraisal on my personal property and my living expense, to me it was not fair, and it was not right, and I didn't agree with it . . . .” (Doc. 21, p. 10:13-16). Mr. Chamblin does not allege that Liberty failed to pay the sums assessed in the appraisal. He states that he “ha[s] a check that [Liberty] sent [him] for personal property for $6, 800 three years ago” which he has not cashed.

         Mr. Chamblin explained that his disagreement with the appraisal of his “additional living expenses, ” the expansive term used to cover his ancillary costs, prompted him to file this case. (Doc. 21, p. 15: 18-19). But the language of his contract with ...


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