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Cooper v. Farmers New Century Insurance Co.

December 29, 2008

JANETTE COOPER, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
FARMERS NEW CENTURY INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs Janette Cooper, Jeramia Cooper, Jasmyne Cooper and John Lilliard,*fn1 filed the instant lawsuit against Defendant Farmers Century Insurance Company ("Farmers Century Insurance") on December 3, 2007, alleging that Defendant violated the District of Columbia's Consumer Protection Procedures Act ("CPPA"), D.C. Code §§ 28-3901 et seq. Originally filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Defendant removed the above-captioned matter to this Court on May 15, 2008 on the basis of diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Presently before the Court is Defendant's Amended Motion to Dismiss.*fn2 Defendant argues in the first instance that this case should be dismissed for improper venue, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3), or, in the alternative, be transferred to the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). In the event the Court finds that venue is proper and denies Defendant's request to transfer, Defendant further argues that the instant matter should be dismissed for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiffs oppose Defendant's motion seeking to dismiss, or, in the alternative, to transfer venue. Upon searching consideration of the parties' briefs, the exhibits attached thereto, the relevant statues and case law, and the entire record herein, the Court shall DENY IN PART and HOLD IN ABEYANCE IN PART Defendant's Amended Motion to Dismiss, for the reasons stated below.

I. BACKGROUND

This case was originally filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on December 3, 2007. See Defendant's Amended Motion to Dismiss, Docket No. [5] (hereinafter "Def.'s Am. MTD"), Ex. A (Complaint (hereinafter "Compl.")). Defendant removed the abovecaptioned matter to this Court on May 15, 2008 solely on the basis of diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. See Defendant's Notice of Removal, Docket No. [1] (hereinafter "Not. of Removal"). As set forth in the Complaint, Plaintiffs seek to bring this lawsuit pursuant to section 29-3904(r) and section 29-3905(k)(1) of the CPPA "for enforcement of unconscionable interpretations denying coverage under provisions of insurance policy contracts, and for bad faith violation of certain duties and of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing . . . ."*fn3 See Compl. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege two separate violations of the CPPA. In Count One of the Complaint, Plaintiffs Janette Cooper, Jeramia Cooper and Jasmyne Cooper (collectively the "Coopers") allege that Defendant acted contrary to the CPPA in processing the Coopers' third-party insurance claims. See id. ¶¶ 1, 3-4. According to the Complaint, on October 3, 2006, the Coopers were involved in a motor vehicle accident with another vehicle, the driver of which was insured by Defendant. Id. As a result of the accident, the Coopers filed claims against Defendant for their resulting injuries. Id. ¶ 1. Plaintiffs allege that, in processing the Coopers' claims, Defendant engaged in "intentional disparagement, delays, obfuscation, and rude bad faith." Id. ¶ 3. Plaintiffs further allege that the Coopers were harmed by Defendant's "bad faith violation of certain duties and of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and enforcement of unconscionable policy terms in negotiations." Id. ¶ 4.

In Count Two of the Complaint, Plaintiff Lilliard alleges that Defendant acted contrary to the CPPA in processing his first-party insurance claim. See id. ¶¶ 2, 5-6. According to the Complaint, Plaintiff Lilliard owns a homeowner's insurance policy issued by Defendant and has filed a claim with Defendant for losses resulting from a May 2003 incident in which a tree struck his home in Annapolis, Maryland. See id. ¶ 1. Plaintiffs allege that, in processing Lilliard's claim, Defendant engaged in "intentional disparagement, delays, obfuscation, and rude bad faith" and made "false[] claims[] in negotiations." Id. ¶ 5. Plaintiffs further allege that Plaintiff Lilliard was harmed by Defendant's "bad faith violation of certain duties and of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and enforcement of unconscionable policy terms in negotiations." Id.

Presently before the Court is Defendant's Amended Motion to Dismiss. Docket No. [5]. Plaintiffs filed their Opposition to Defendant's Amended Motion to Dismiss on June 9, 2008.

See Docket No. [8] (hereinafter "Pls.' Opp'n"). Although the time for filing Defendant's Reply has since passed, Defendant did not file any such Reply with this Court. Accordingly, Defendant's Amended Motion to Dismiss is now ripe.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(3)

Defendant first argues that venue in this case is improper in the District of Columbia, and that the instant matter should therefore be dismissed for improper venue pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(3). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) allows a case to be dismissed for improper venue. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(3); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) ("The district court of a district in which is filed a case laying venue in the wrong division or district shall dismiss, or if it be in the interest of justice, transfer such case to any district or division in which it could have been brought."). "[T]he plaintiff . . . bears the burden of establishing that venue is proper." Varma v. Gutierrez, 421 F. Supp. 2d 110, 113 (D.D.C. 2006) (internal quotations omitted). "In considering a Rule 12(b)(3) motion, the court accepts the plaintiff's well-pled factual allegations regarding venue as true, draws all reasonable inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff's favor, and resolves any factual conflicts in the plaintiff's favor." Darby v. U.S. Dep't of Energy, 231 F. Supp. 2d 274, 276 (D.D.C. 2002). "To prevail on a motion to dismiss for improper venue, a defendant must present facts that will defeat a plaintiff's assertion of venue." Id. Finally, "[w]hen deciding a Rule 12(b)(3) motion to dismiss for lack of venue, the court may consider extrinsic evidence." Smith v. U.S. Investigations Servs., Inc., Civ. Act. No. 04-0711, 2004 WL 2663143, *1 n.1 (D.D.C. Nov. 18, 2004); see also Argueta v. Banco Mexicano, S.A., 87 F.3d 320, 324 (9th Cir. 1996); Moore v. AT & T Latin America Corp., 177 F. Supp. 2d 785, 788 (N.D. Ill. 2001); ESI, Inc. v. Coastal Power Prod. Co., 995 F. Supp. 419, 422 (S.D.N.Y.1998).

B. Motion to Transfer Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)

Defendant alternatively argues that, even if this Court concludes that venue might lie in the District of Columbia, the Court should nevertheless exercise its discretion to transfer this case to the District of Maryland pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which states that "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The Court must therefore first determine the threshold question under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) of whether this action "might have been brought" in the District of Maryland. Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964).However, even if venue is proper in the District of Maryland, the Court may transfer a case only if the balance of private and public interests weighs in favor of transfer. Greater Yellowstone Coalition v. Bosworth, 180 F. Supp. 2d 124, 127 (D.D.C. 2001). "Courts have discretion to adjudicate motions to transfer according to case-by-case considerations of convenience and fairness." Id. Finally, as in considering motions to dismiss for improper venue, a court may consider undisputed facts outside the pleadings. See Thayer/Patricof Educ. Funding, LLC v. Pryor Res., Inc., 196 F. Supp. 2d 21, 33 (D.D.C. 2002); see also Midwest Precision Servs., Inc. v. PTM Indus. Corp., 574 F. Supp. 657, 659 (N.D. Ill. 1983) ("In ruling upon a motion to transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), the Court may consider only undisputed facts presented to the Court by affidavit, deposition, stipulation or other relevant documents.").

C. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

Finally, in the event the Court declines to transfer venue, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs' Complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain "'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Although "detailed factual allegations" are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, to provide the "grounds" of "entitle[ment] to relief," a plaintiff must furnish "more than labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. at 1964-65; see also Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). Instead, the complaint's "[f]actual allegations 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)." Bell Atl. Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (citations omitted). In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and must accept as true all reasonable factual inferences drawn from well-pleaded ...


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