United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter now comes before the court on “Defendant's
Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, ”
in which Liberty Insurance Corporation moves to dismiss Count
One (negligence), Count Three (bad faith), Count Four
(fraud), and Count Five (Alabama Deceptive Trade Practices
Act) of Plaintiff D'Andre Steele's amended complaint.
(Doc. 8). Mr. Steele consented to the dismissal of Counts
One, Four, and Five but argues he has met the pleading
requirements for Count Three. (Doc. 13 at 2). For the reasons
stated below, this court WILL GRANT Liberty's motion to
dismiss but WILL GRANT Mr. Steele specific leave to amend his
complaint to cure the pleading deficiencies.
Steele's Liberty Mutual tenant insurance policy, which
included coverage of specific jewelry in the amount of $101,
995.00 and became effective February 17, 2018, covered a set
of diamond earrings and a Rolex watch. (Doc. 7 at
¶¶ 13, 16, 17; Doc. 8 at 1). On May 1, 2018, Mr.
Steele left the insured jewelry in his car while he attended
a car auction in Moody, Alabama. (Doc. 7 at ¶¶ 5,
8, 17). Upon realizing an individual had entered his vehicle,
driven his car off the lot, and stolen his jewelry, Mr.
Steele notified Liberty Mutual and initiated a claim. (Doc. 7
at ¶¶ 9, 10, 12).
the complaint fails to give a specific timeline of when Mr.
Steele initiated the claim, his complaint alleges he received
a claim denial letter from John Baust of the Liberty Mutual
Claims Department on September 20, 2018. (Doc. 7 at ¶
20). This letter cited a review into Mr. Steele's claim,
which supposedly revealed fraudulent jewelry appraisals.
(Doc. 7 at ¶ 20). Liberty provided no other
justification for the claim denial, and Mr. Steele contested
the denial through his attorney. (Doc. 7 at ¶¶
21-22). Mr. Baust and Liberty responded with a similar
letter, again denying coverage. (Doc. 7 at ¶ 22).
response to Liberty's claim denial, Mr. Steele filed an
amended complaint, alleging six counts-Count One
(negligence), Count Two (breach of contract), Count Three
(bad faith), Count Four (fraud), Count Five (violations of
the Alabama Deceptive Trade Practices Act), and Count Six
(entitlement to a declaratory judgment). (Doc. 7). Pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Liberty Mutual
moved to dismiss Counts One, Three, Four, and Five of the
complaint, but not the breach of contract count or the
declaratory judgment count. (Doc. 8). Mr. Steele consented to
the dismissal of Counts One, Four, and Five, (Doc. 13 at 2),
so the only issue now before the court is whether Mr. Steele
sufficiently pled his bad faith claim.
Standards of Review
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss standard of review
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss attacks the legal sufficiency of
the complaint. Generally, the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure require only that the complaint provide
“‘a short and plain statement of the claim'
that will give the defendant fair notice of what the
plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47
(1957) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)). A plaintiff must provide
the grounds of her entitlement, but Rule 8 generally does not
require “detailed factual allegations.” Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting
Conley, 355 U.S. at 47). It does, however,
“demand more than an unadorned,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
Pleadings that contain nothing more than “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action” do not
meet Rule 8 standards nor do pleadings suffice that are based
merely upon “labels or conclusions” or
“naked assertions” without supporting factual
allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557.
Supreme Court explained that “[t]o survive a motion to
dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678 (quoting and explaining its decision in
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). To be plausible on its
face, the claim must contain enough facts that “allow
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678. The plausibility standard does not rise to
the level of requiring probability but does require that a
complaint show more than merely facts that are consistent
with liability or the “sheer possibility” of
unlawful action. Id. If the court determines that
well-pled facts, accepted as true, do not state a claim that
is plausible, the claim must be dismissed. Id.
15(a)(2) Motion to Amend Complaint
a party has amended its pleading once as a matter of course,
the party may amend its pleading only with the opposing
party's written consent or with the court's
leave.” Spaulding v. Poitier, 548 Fed.Appx.
587, 593-94 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2)).
Although the court retains the sole discretion to grant leave
to amend a complaint, Rule 15(a) and the interests of justice
dictate that leave to amend should be granted freely and
should not be denied without a substantial reason. Laurie
v. Ala. Court of Criminal Appeals, 256 F.3d 1266, 1274
(11th Cir. 2001) (quoting Halliburton & Assoc. v.
Henderson, Few & Co., 774 F.2d 441 (11th Cir.1985)).
However, the court need not allow amendment of a complaint
where the amendment would be futile. Bryant v.
Dupree, 252 F.3d 1161, 1163 (11th Cir. 2001) (citing
Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)).
issues now come before the court: first, Defendant
Liberty's motion to dismiss, and second, if the court
grants the motion dismiss, Mr. Steele's ...