United States District Court, D. Maryland
BIERMAN FAMILY FARM, LLC./ KING MULCH/KING FARMS, Plaintiff(s),
UNITED FARM FAMILY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
David Copperthite United States Magistrate Judge.
Memorandum Opinion addresses the Motion to Dismiss Claim of
Bad Faith (ECF No. 17) filed by Defendant United Farm Family
Insurance Company ("Defendant") against Plaintiffs
Bierman Family Farm, LLC, King Mulch, and King Farms
(collectively, "Plaintiffs"). On January 3, 2017,
Plaintiffs filed suit in the Circuit Court for Harford County
against Defendant alleging one count of breach of contract
for failure to fully pay the amounts due under an insurance
contract between Plaintiff Bierman and Defendant United Farm
Family Insurance Company. ECF No. 2 (hereinafter "the
Complaint"). On January 22, 2017, Defendant filed a
Motion to Dismiss Claim of Bad Faith (hereinafter "the
Motion to Dismiss"). ECF No. 17. On February 22, 2017.
Plaintiffs filed an opposition to Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss. ECF No. 19. On March 1. 2017, Defendant filed a
reply to Plaintiffs' opposition. ECF No. 21.
matter is now fully briefed. Upon review of Defendant's
Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiffs' Response, and
Defendant's Reply, the Court finds no hearing is
necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons
stated herein, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss Claim of Bad Faith.
lawsuit arises out of Defendant United Farm Family's
denial of Plaintiff Bierman's insurance claim for the
alleged damage to a storage building on the property located
at 33819 Market Street, Pokomoke City, Maryland 21851
(hereinafter "the Property"). On or about October
13, 2015, Plaintiff Bierman and Defendant entered into a
contract of insurance (Policy No. 1913G1126) (hereinafter
"the Policy") providing coverage on the Property
for the time period from November 17, 2015 through November
17. 2016. ECF No. 17-2. The Policy provided for a maximum
coverage of $200, 000 for the storage building located at the
Property. In addition to that maximum, the Policy provided
for up to $10, 000 for debris removal and up to $10, 000 for
law and ordinance coverage. Id.
April 10, 2016, "the Property sustained a fire
loss" ECF No. 2 at 2. As a result, Plaintiffs "made
a claim with the Defendant for the resulting property damage
by way of Claim Number 19-G-3A9171" claiming costs in
excess of the $200, 000 policy limit for replacement of the
Property as well as estimates in excess of $10, 000 for
debris removal. Id. at 3. Thereafter. Defendant
partially denied Plaintiffs claim, paying $105, 000 or one
half of the total coverage for damage and debris removal at
the Property based on the application of a Vacancy and
Unoccupancy Clause contained in the Policy.
Complaint alleges a single count of breach of contract for
failure to fully pay the amounts due under the Policy.
Specifically, Plaintiffs contend that, "[Defendant]
improperly applied a 50% vacancy penalty, even though the
Storage Building was not vacant under the definitions of the
policy." Id. The Complaint seeks $220, 000 in
damages with interests and costs for the alleged breach as
well as a declaratory judgment of Defendant's bad faith.
ECF No. 2. Defendant now moves to dismiss the claim of bad
faith outlined in paragraph 19 of the Complaint for failure
to state a claim. ECF No. 17.
Standard of Review
purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion [to dismiss] is to test the
sufficiency of a complaint." McBurney v.
Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010) (internal
citation omitted). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a
complaint must satisfy the pleading standard articulated in
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), which requires a "short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief." The purpose of the rule is to provide the
defendant with "fair notice" of the claim and the
"grounds" for entitlement to relief. Bell All.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 & n.3 (2007).
That showing must consist of more than "a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action" or
"naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual
enhancement." Ashcroft v. Iubal. 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (internal citations omitted); see
Painter's Mill Grille. LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342,
350 (4th Cir. 2013).
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must
set forth "a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Ashcrofi v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009); Bell All. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible "when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). When ruling
on a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a court
is required to "accept the well-pled allegations of the
complaint as true" and "construe the facts and
reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff." Ibarra v. United
States, 120 F.3d 474, 474 (4th Cir. 1997); see also
Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com. Inc., 591
F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009) ("in evaluating a 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss, a court accepts all well-pled facts as
true and construes these facts in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff in weighing the legal sufficiency of the
complaint."). However, the court need not accept
unsupported or conclusory factual allegations. United
Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844. 847 (4th Cir.
1979); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186,
193 (4th Cir. 2009). Nor must it accept legal conclusions
couched as factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678. Thus, dismissal is appropriate where "accepting as
true the well-pled facts in the complaint and viewing them in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the plaintiff is
unable to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face" Brockington v. Boykins. 637 F.3d 503,
505-06 (4th Cir. 2011) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at
to survive a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations of a
complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level ... on the assumption that all
the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful
in fact)." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal
citations omitted). Thus, a complaint must contain sufficient
factual detail to "nudge [Plaintiffs'] claims across
the line from conceivable to plausible."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. If the "well-pleaded
facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere
possibility of misconduct." the complaint has not shown
that "'the pleader is entitled to relief."'
Iqbul 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).
Plaintiffs' Argument that Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss Has Been Waived
Court first addresses Plaintiffs' claim that
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss has been waived. Plaintiffs
argue that a motion to dismiss is not proper at this stage
and should have been raised prior to the filing of