United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH WATKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case, an insurance action under Alabama law, contains three
claims: breach of contract, bad faith, and fraud. The breach
of contract claim, as the name implies, is an action in
contract. The bad faith and fraud claims sound in tort.
Defendant moves to dismiss the fraud claim because it is
based on no more than an alleged breach of the insurance
policy. Thus, the court must decide whether Plaintiff may
assert the tort of fraud solely based on Defendant's
failure to pay insurance benefits. He may not.
Plaintiff's fraud count thus does not state a claim.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
a Pennsylvania citizen, removed this case to federal court on
November 21, 2018, based on diversity. Plaintiff, an Alabama
citizen, did not move to remand. The court finds that the
amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.
jurisdiction is therefore proper under 28 U.S.C. §§
1441(a) and 1332 (removal and diversity). The parties do not
contest personal jurisdiction or venue.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Defendant moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), it filed an answer first. (Doc. # 6.)
That is not allowed under Rule 12. See Fed. R. Civ.
P. 12(b) (“A motion asserting any of these defenses
must be made before pleading if a responsive
pleading is allowed.”). Thus, the court construes
Defendant's motion as one for judgment on the pleadings
under Rule 12(c). See Weeks v. Wyeth, Inc., 120
F.Supp.3d 1278, 1282-83 (M.D. Ala. 2015). The standards for
assessing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion and a Rule 12(c) motion are
identical. Id. at 1283.
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency
of the complaint against Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8.
Rule 8 provides that the complaint must include “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
court must take the facts alleged in the complaint as true
and construe them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. Resnick v. AvMed, Inc., 693 F.3d 1317,
1321-22 (11th Cir. 2012). However, the court need not accept
mere legal conclusions as true. Id. at 1325.
survive a 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint “must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Dismissal
under Rule 12(b)(6) is also permitted “when on the
basis of a dispositive issue of law, no construction of the
factual allegations will support the cause of action.”
Marshall Cty. Bd. of Educ. v. Marshall Cty. Gas
Dist., 992 F.2d 1171, 1174 (11th Cir. 1993); see
also Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989)
(explaining that the rule allows a court “to dismiss a
claim on the basis of a dispositive issue of law”).
Jabbar Thomas, a truck driver, injured his head when he was
working on the underside of his tractor. He claimed benefits
for medical expenses and lost wages under the policy he held
with Defendant National Union Fire Insurance Company of
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Defendant denied him those
benefits. This lawsuit followed.
sued for breach of contract, bad faith, and fraud. His fraud
claim is based on Defendant's representations that if
Plaintiff had “an accident during the policy period, he
would be entitled to benefits under the policy, ” and
that he “would receive benefits pursuant to the subject
policy as a result of a covered loss.” (Doc. # 1-1, at
5, 6.) Since Defendant ended up denying Plaintiff's
benefits claim, Plaintiff alleges that those representations
moved to dismiss the fraud claim under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim and Rule 9(b)
for failure to plead fraud with particularity. (Doc. # 7.)
Defendant argues that, under Alabama law, Plaintiff's
fraud claim merely restates his breach of contract claim in
different terms and is thus not independently actionable.
Defendant is correct. Its motion to dismiss (Doc. # 7) will
therefore be granted.