United States District Court, District of Columbia
COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY United States District Judge.
Christopher Hall, Piper Hall, and their child B.H. bring this
lawsuit against Defendants South River Restoration, Inc.
(“South River”) and USAA Casualty Insurance
Company (“USAA”) for their respective roles in
the ill-fated attempt to repair Plaintiffs' Washington
D.C. home after it was damaged during Superstorm Sandy.
Pending before the Court is USAA's  Motion to
Dismiss. Upon consideration of the pleadings,  the relevant
legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court
GRANTS-IN-PART and DENIES-IN-PART Defendant's motion. The
Court finds that Plaintiffs' breach of contract and
Consumer Protection Procedures Act (“C P PA ”)
claims are plausible and should not be dismissed at this
early stage in the case. However, Plaintiffs'
negligence-based claims will be dismissed without prejudice
because Plaintiffs have not pled that Defendant owed them any
duty that is meaningfully distinct and independent from the
duties Defendant owed Plaintiffs pursuant to their
homeowners' insurance policy.
home was seriously damaged during Superstorm Sandy. Compl.,
ECF No. 1, at ¶ 12. Plaintiffs allege that when they
filed a claim with USAA, their home insurance provider, USAA
accepted coverage but required that Plaintiffs use one of
USAA's preferred contractors, South River, to do the
repair work. Id. ¶¶ 3, 26, 297. Plaintiffs
allege that instead of repairing their home, South River
spent the next four years causing their home further damage
through their negligent work. Id. ¶¶ 3-4.
Plaintiffs allegedly complained about South River's work
to USAA on numerous occasions, and asked USAA to allow them
to use another contractor. See, e.g., id.
¶¶ 32, 44, 55, 62, 82, 93, 147. USAA repeatedly
refused. Id. Eventually, USAA issued Plaintiffs a
check that it claimed satisfied its obligation to pay for the
storm damage to Plaintiffs' home, and informed Plaintiffs
that it would no longer be involved with their claim.
Id. ¶¶ 186-88. Plaintiffs filed this
lawsuit soon thereafter. Plaintiffs assert causes of action
against USAA for breach of contract, violation of the CPPA,
negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress and
negligent misrepresentation. Id. ¶¶
292-348. Defendant USAA has moved to dismiss all of the
claims against it.
to Federal Rule 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a
complaint on the grounds that it “fail[s] to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). “[A] complaint [does not] suffice if it
tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of
‘further factual enhancement.'” Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)).
Rather, a complaint must contain sufficient factual
allegations that, if accepted as true, “state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial
plausibility 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. “In evaluating a
motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the factual
allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of plaintiff.” Nat'l Postal
Prof'l Nurses v. U.S. Postal Serv., 461 F.Supp.2d
24, 27 (D.D.C. 2006).
Court will grant Defendant's motion in part and deny it
in part. The Court will not dismiss Plaintiffs' breach of
contract or C P P A claims against USAA because these claims
have been adequately pled, and Defendant's arguments that
they are untimely are not well-taken at this early stage in
the litigation. The Court does, however, agree with Defendant
that Plaintiffs have not adequately pled their
negligence-based claims because Plaintiffs have not
identified a tort duty Defendant owed Plaintiffs that is
independent of the parties' insurance contract. The Court
will accordingly dismiss the negligence-based claims without
Plaintiffs' Breach of Contract Claim
argues that Plaintiffs' breach of contract claim should
be dismissed for two reasons. First, Defendant argues that
Plaintiffs have not pled “the specific contractual duty
they are claiming has been breached.” Def.'s Mem.
at 5. The Court disagrees. Plaintiffs allege that under their
homeowners' insurance policy, Defendant had a duty
“to pay for ‘sudden and accidental direct,
physical loss' to the Halls' residence.” Compl.
¶ 293. The complaint alleges that USAA breached this
duty to pay for the damage to Plaintiffs' home when USAA
conditioned payment on the use of a particular contractor
who, instead of repairing Plaintiffs' home for the amount
of money provided by USAA, only damaged Plaintiffs' home
further. Id. ¶¶ 3, 4, 15-19, 25-26,
292-308. Development of the record may eventually
reveal that this duty was not in fact breached, but at the
pleading stage the Court is satisfied that Plaintiffs have
plausibly pled their contract claim. Accepting all factual
allegations as true and drawing all reasonable inferences for
Plaintiffs, the complaint plausibly alleges that the
Defendant's actions, viewed in their entirety, were
insufficient to satisfy its obligation under the contract to
pay to repair the damage to Plaintiffs' home.
Defendant argues that Plaintiffs' breach of contract
claim should be dismissed because Plaintiffs' insurance
policy contained a suit limitation provision that states that
“[n]o action can be brought against us unless you have
. . . [s]tarted the action within two years after the date of
the loss.” Def.'s Mem. at 6, Ex. B at 23. Again,
the Court disagrees. Defendant is correct that
“[c]ontractual provisions limiting the period within
which insurance policy-holders may validly initiate a lawsuit
are generally enforceable under District of Columbia
law.” Martinez v. Hartford Cas. Ins. Co., 429
F.Supp.2d 52, 56 (D.D.C. 2006). However, the Court is not
convinced that Plaintiffs' contract claim should be
dismissed at the pleading stage on the basis of this
provision given the particular facts in this case.
initial matter, the parties in this case dispute the meaning
of the word “loss” in the suit limitation
provision. Defendant argues that Plaintiffs'
“loss” occurred in 2012 when their home was
damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Def.'s Mem. at 6-7.
Plaintiffs disagree, arguing that “[i]n this situation,
‘loss' as that term is used in the Policy more
correctly refers to the ultimate expense the Halls face to
rectify the damage that South River and USAA caused to their
home, and the related consequential damages described in the
Complaint.” Pls.' Opp'n at 9.
the Court notes that Plaintiffs' interpretation appears
to be at least a reasonable one under the circumstances, it
need not resolve the parties' dispute over the meaning of
“loss” at this time. Regardless of which
interpretation is correct, dismissal on the pleadings on the
basis of this limitation provision would be inappropriate. On
the one hand, if the Court were to accept Plaintiffs'
interpretation of the term “loss, ”
Plaintiffs' complaint would clearly be timely because
their “loss” did not occur until July 2016, when
USAA allegedly informed Plaintiffs that it would not pay the
full amount required to repair their home. Plaintiffs'
lawsuit was filed only months later.
other hand, even if the Court were to accept Defendants'
view that the term “loss” means the date of the
original damage to Plaintiffs' home, the complaint still
should not be dismissed at the pleading stage on the basis of
the suit limitation provision because Plaintiffs may have
successful waiver or estoppel arguments. “A defendant
is estopped from raising [a limitations period] as a defense
if that defendant has done anything that would tend to lull
the plaintiff into inaction and thereby permit the
[limitations period] to run against him.”
Martinez, 429 F.Supp.2d at 57 (quoting
Partnership Placements, Inc. v. Landmark Ins. Co.,
722 A.2d 837, 842 (D.C. 1998)). Additionally, an insurance
company may waive a ...