Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Steele v. Liberty Insurance Corp.

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

September 5, 2019

D'ANDRE STEELE, Plaintiff,
v.
LIBERTY INSURANCE CORPORATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KARON OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This 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.

         I. Factual Background

         Mr. 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).

         Although 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).

         In 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.

         II. Standards of Review

         Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss standard of review

         A Rule 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, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” 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.

         The 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.

         Rule 15(a)(2) Motion to Amend Complaint

         “After 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)).

         III. Discussion

         Two 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.