United States District Court, D. Columbia.
For Mr Antonio Barros, Jeffery Styles, Plaintiffs: Jeffery Warren Styles, SULLIVAN STYLES & BARROS, LLP, Washington, DC, USA.
Thomas F. Hogan, Senior United States District Judge.
This is the second time the Court has been asked to determine the legal viability of this lawsuit. Antonio Barros and Jeffrey Styles (collectively " the plaintiffs" ) allege in their Amended Complaint that Government Employees Insurance Company, Inc. (" GEICO" or " the defendant" )
breached an insurance contract and implied covenant of good faith by failing to adequately compensate the plaintiffs for injuries and damages they incurred in a vehicle collision. Pending before the Court are (1) Defendant GEICO's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint [ECF No. 19] and (2) a Motion for Order of Default [ECF No. 17] that was filed by the plaintiffs. Upon consideration of both motions, the oppositions and replies thereto, and the entire record of this case, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendant GEICO's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint and deny the Motion for Order of Default.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL POSTURE
According to the allegations in the Amended Complaint, this lawsuit stems from a vehicle collision that occurred on or about December 10, 2012, in Fairfax, Virginia. Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 6, 7. Antonio Barros reportedly was driving his vehicle westbound when a vehicle driven by James Beck, who was under the influence of alcohol, made an interfering left turn and caused a collision. Id. at ¶ ¶ 6, 7, 10. Although the Amended Complaint fails to so state, it can be inferred from the allegations that the plaintiffs are asserting that Jeffrey Styles was a passenger in Barros' vehicle at the time of the accident. Id. at ¶ ¶ 8, 9. As a result of the collision, both plaintiffs claim to have suffered injuries and lost wages for which they seek a total of about $4 million in compensatory, punitive and other damages. Id. at ¶ ¶ 8, 9, 23, 24, 25, 26.
The plaintiffs contend that GECIO insured both of the vehicles that were involved in the collision but the insurance policy covering the vehicle driven by James Beck had a liability limit in the amount of only $20,000. Id. at ¶ 17, 26, 27, 28, 38. Antonio Barros' insurance policy, on the other hand, allegedly contained a provision that provided protection from underinsured motorists in the amount of up to $100,000. Id. at ¶ ¶ 27, 28. The Amended Complaint states, however, that the underinsured-motorist provision in Antonio Barros' insurance policy " does not take effect until GEICO agrees that damages exceed" James Beck's policy limit. Id. at ¶ 28.
While the Amended Complaint is not entirely clear, it appears to allege that, because the plaintiffs suffered damages totaling more than $20,000 -- which would exceed James Beck's policy limit -- GEICO is now obligated to compensate them pursuant to the underinsured-motorist provision in Antonio Barros' insurance policy, and
the failure to do so is a breach. Id. at ¶ ¶ 24, 25, 39, 40, 41, 43. GEICO counters by asserting that the underinsured-motorist provision in Antonio Barros' insurance policy " is not triggered" until the plaintiffs first obtain a judgment or settlement that exhausts the liability limits that apply to James Beck's insurance policy. Def. GEICO's Mem. of Grounds & A. In Support of Mot. to Dismiss Pls.' Am. Compl. 3 [ECF No. 19-1] (hereinafter cited as " Def.'s Mem. of P. & A." ). According to GEICO, this is a condition precedent that cannot be satisfied because James Beck and Amy Beck were dismissed from this lawsuit for lack of personal jurisdiction. Id. at 5. GEICO further argues that the plaintiffs' Amended Complaint fails to state claims for relief. Id. at 6-8. GEICO therefore requests that the Court dismiss the plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. Id. at 8.
Because GEICO's motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint was filed late, the plaintiffs moved for an " order of default." Mot. for Order of Default ¶ ¶ 8, 9 [ECF No. 17]. The plaintiffs characterize GEICO's tardiness as willful and argue that they are prejudiced by the delay. Reply to Def.'s Opp'n to Pls.' Mot. for Order of Default 2-4 [ECF No. 20]. Although GEICO admits filing late, GEICO opposes the entry of default because no cause of action has been properly pleaded by the plaintiffs and the delay did not prejudice the plaintiffs given that this case is in the early stages of litigation. Def. GEICO's Opp'n to Pls.' Mot. for Order of Default 3-5 [ECF No. 18].
DEFENDANT GEICO'S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFFS' AMENDED COMPLAINT
I. Standard of Review
Turning first to GEICO's motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint, Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandates that a pleading " must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . . ." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). " Under the Supreme Court's rearticulation of pleading requirements in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), '[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Rollins v. Wackenhut Servs., Inc., 703 F.3d 122, 129, 403 U.S.App.D.C. 215 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).
Consistent with these principles, the Court employs a two-prong approach to consideration of whether a complaint's dismissal is warranted. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. First, " a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. As the Supreme Court has explained, " the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Thus, " [t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id.
Second, after identifying any well-pleaded factual allegations, " a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 679. Allegations are plausible " when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that ...