Monday, April 25, 2022

UIM Bad Faith Claim Allowed to Proceed; UTPCPL Claim Dismissed

In the case of Wingrove v. Nationwide Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., No. 2:21-CV-00940 (W.D. Pa. March 28, 2022 Colville, J.), the court found that a Plaintiff adequately pled a UIM bad faith claim regarding claims handling issues and an alleged delay in payment. However, the Court dismissed claims that were brought by the Plaintiff under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL) as well as under the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law.

According to the Opinion, the insured brought bad faith claims regarding the carrier’s failure to pay UIM benefits and wage loss benefits. The carrier filed a Motion to Dismiss in this federal court matter.

After reviewing the Complaint, the court found that the Complaint described in sufficient detail the facts that described the who, what, where, when, and how questions with regard to alleged bad faith conduct.

More specifically, the court found that the Plaintiff had alleged facts in support of claims of a lack of any investigation or evaluation, alleged repeated failures on the part of the carrier to communicate with the Plaintiff’s counsel despite Plaintiff’s counsel’s attempt to contact the carrier, and also alleged an unexplained delay of seven (7) months between the Plaintiff’s demand and the carrier’s offer. The court found that these allegations were sufficient to allow the bad faith claim to proceed.

The court otherwise dismissed the Plaintiff’s UTPCPL claims after finding that that law did not apply to claims handling, but only to conduct prior to the entry of an insurance agreement. The court noted that the allegations all involved claims handling issues and not the sale of an insurance policy.

The court also agreed that the claims raised by the Plaintiff under 75 Pa. C.S.A. §1716 of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, which addressed first party benefits issues, did not apply to UIM claims. As such, those claims were dismissed as well.

The court otherwise refused to strike references to a fiduciary duty as set forth in the Complaint. In this regard, the court found that the Plaintiff had not specifically asserted any claim for a breach of a fiduciary duty and that there was, therefore, no need for the drastic action of striking allegations sounding in that regard from the case at that early stage of the case.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Lee Applebaum of the Philadelphia law office of Fineman Krekstein and Harris, and also the writer of the Pennsylvania New Jersey Insurance Bad Faith Case Law blog for bringing this case to my attention.  Click HERE to view Lee's Blog.

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