United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
E. DOWDELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant Bristol West Insurance's Motion to
Dismiss and Brief in Support. (Doc. 12). Plaintiff has
opposed the Motion, and Defendant has replied. (Docs. 15,
alleged in the Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, in April of
2017, Plaintiff and a third-party were involved in a motor
vehicle accident. At the time of the accident,
Plaintiff's vehicle was covered under an insurance policy
with collision coverage, which was written by the Defendant,
Bristol West Insurance Company (Bristol West). (Doc. 1-4 at
¶ 7). Plaintiff submitted a claim under his insurance
policy for damage to his vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 8).
Bristol West responded by requesting that Plaintiff send
pictures of his vehicle as a means for Bristol West to
calculate a quote for damages. (Id.).
waiting to receive Bristol West's damage estimate,
Plaintiff obtained a $10, 000 estimate for repairs from Bill
Knight Ford. (Id. at ¶ 9). Nine days after
Plaintiff's accident, Bristol West sent Plaintiff a
damage estimate amounting to $4, 507.33 and a check for $3,
507.33 to cover the damage to his vehicle minus
Plaintiff's deductible. (Id. at ¶ 10).
Plaintiff expressed his dissatisfaction with Bristol
West's estimate, claiming that Bill Knight Ford valued
the damage to his vehicle significantly higher. (Id.
at ¶ 11). In response, Bristol West completed a second
evaluation of Plaintiff's vehicle via photograph.
(Id. at ¶ 12). Bristol West determined
Plaintiff's vehicle was a “total loss, ” with
a cash value of $6, 552. (Id.). Bristol West offered
to settle the claim for a total of $5, 952.92.
remained dissatisfied with Bristol West's valuation of
his damages and vehicle. (Id.). The insurance policy
contained a resolution procedure in the event of a dispute
over the amount of loss. (Id. at ¶ 13). The
procedure contemplated submission of an appraisal to a
third-party umpire who would ultimately determine the correct
value of the vehicle. (Id.). Once Plaintiff learned
of this option, he attempted to begin the process with
Bristol West, but Bristol West never responded to his
attempts to initiate the resolution process. (Id. at
then filed this lawsuit in the Tulsa County District Court on
October 10, 2018 (Doc. 1-1), and thereafter filed an amended
petition (Doc. 1-4). The Amended Petition asserts claims for
breach of contract and bad faith. Defendant removed the
action to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction, as the
parties are of diverse citizenship and Plaintiff seeks in
excess of $75, 000 in damages. (See Doc. 1, Doc. 1-1
at 6). Bristol West has filed an Answer in response to
Plaintiff's breach of contract claim, but seeks dismissal
of Plaintiff's bad faith and punitive damages claims
under Fed. R. Civ. P 12(b)(6). (Doc. 12).
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal motion, a court must
determine whether the plaintiff has stated a claim upon which
relief may be granted. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim to
show that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Supreme
Court precedent for pleading requirements is articulated in
Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544
(2007). The Twombly pleading standard is applicable
to all civil actions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 684 (2009).
requires that a complaint provide “more than labels and
conclusions and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action.” 550 U.S. 544, 555-56. The standard
does “not require a heightened fact pleading of
specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face, ” and the factual
allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level.” Id. at 555-56,
570 (citations omitted). In considering a dismissal motion,
the court must accept all the well-pleaded factual
allegations of the complaint as true, even if doubtful, and
must construe the allegations in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555;
Alvarado v. KOB-TV, L.L.C., 493 F.3d 1210, 1215
(10th Cir. 2007).
West argues that Plaintiff's pleading provides
“nothing more than conclusory allegations unsupported
by allegations of fact. . . .” (Doc. 12 at 2). Bristol
West also seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's request for
punitive damages, arguing that Oklahoma law excludes punitive
damage awards arising solely from breach of contract actions.
Wilspec Technologies, Inc. v. DunAn Holding Group, Co.,
Ltd., 2009 OK 12, ¶ 17, 204 P.3d 69, 74.
Consequently, if Plaintiff's bad faith claim is
dismissed, then Plaintiff may not recover punitive damages.
Oklahoma law, an insurer has an implied-in-law duty to act in
good faith and deal fairly with its insured to ensure that
the policy benefits are received, and a violation of that
duty gives rise to an action in tort. Bannister v. State
Farm Ins. Co., 692 F.3d 1117, 1123 n.8 (10th Cir.2012);
Badillo v. Mid Century Ins. Co., 121 P.3d 1080, 1093
(Okla. 2005); Christian v. American Home Assur.
Co., 577 P.2d 899, 901-5 (Okla. 1978). A prima facie
case against an insurance company for a bad faith delay in
payment requires plaintiffs to establish the following:
(1) [The] claimant was entitled to coverage under the
insurance policy at issue; (2) the insurer had no reasonable
basis for delaying payment; (3) the insurer did not deal
fairly and in good faith with the claimant; and (4) the
insurer's violation of its duty of good faith and fair
dealing was the direct cause of the claimant's ...