NORTHERN DISTRICT COURT DISMISSES BAD FAITH CASE AGAINST STATE FARM AFTER PLAINTIFF FAILS TO MEET FEDERAL PLEADING REQUIREMENTS
A plaintiff in a homeowner’s first-party bad faith suit was ordered to re-plead in order to meet the federal pleading standards, but the so-called “Amended Complaint” in fact amended little and did not set forth sufficient facts to withstand State Farm’s motion to dismiss. In Radenbaugh v. State Farm Lloyds, Cause No. 4:13-CV-339-A, — WL — (N.D. Tex. August 16, 2013), the plaintiff alleged breach of contract plus statutory and common law extra-contractual claims arising out of State Farm’s handling of a fire claim. State Farm removed the case from Palo Pinto County to the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and a month after removal the Court ordered the plaintiff to re-plead, expressly calling the plaintiff’s attention to the applicable federal rules of civil procedure and noting that they differ from the Texas pleading rules.
The plaintiff re-pleaded but only “with slight modifications” to his state court petition. The court noted that some of the changes were “cosmetic only,” and that the amended pleading was “basically … a repeat” of his state court petition. State Farm therefore moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim for which relief could be granted. The district court first analyzed the plaintiff’s contract claim. The court noted that the cause of action as pleaded was devoid of “factual specificity,” and that the 18 paragraphs relating to the contract claim failed, for example, even to allege that State Farm ever issued a policy to the plaintiff. Because the plaintiff did not allege the exact nature of the contract, did not describe State Farm’s obligations under the contract, did not identify how State Farm allegedly breached the contract, and did not attempt to show how any breach of the policy caused damages, the court found the pleadings defective.
The court noted the failure of Plaintiff’s contract claim should be “fatal” to all of plaintiff’s remaining extra-contractual claims. However, the court continued its analysis of the pleading noting that the allegations under the insurance code constituted merely “formulaic recitations of the statutory provisions.” Plaintiff’s pleadings relating to breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing failed to allege damages separate from the contract, which are required under Texas law. Finally, Plaintiff’s DTPA claim both was premised on recovery under the Insurance Code, and again failed to include any factual information. The court therefore dismissed all claims, and refused to give the plaintiff another chance to re-plead because the plaintiff had provided no excuse for not complying with the federal rules in his first attempt to re-plead.
Editor’s Note: MDJW is grateful to State Farm for the opportunity to defend its interests in this lawsuit.