In Hoffer v. Grange Insurance Company, the Magistrate Judge addressed, via his Report and Recommendation which was later adopted by the District Court, two technical motions under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: a Rule 12(f) motion to strike a paragraph of the Complaint; and requiring a more definite statement of a claim under Rule 12(e). The matter in dispute was a breach of contract and bad faith UIM case.
Addressing the Rule 12(f) motion, the court refused to strike the averment: “[a]s [the insured’s] insurer, Defendant owes a fiduciary, contractual and statutory obligation to investigate, evaluate, and negotiate the UIM claim in good faith and to arrive at a prompt, fair and equitable settlement.” The court recognized such motions are not favored, and that a judge should only use the discretion to strike averments in a pleading only when those pleadings are both redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous and unfairly prejudicial to the opposing party. In fact, the court found the averment unremarkable and consistent with Pennsylvania law.
One of the plaintiff’s arguments against the motion to strike was that this averment tied into a statutory bad faith. However, this claim was not clearly pleaded, and the court used the authority of Rule 12(e) to direct plaintiff to make a more definite statement of the section 8731 count. The court quoted Third Circuit precedent: “When a complaint fashioned under a notice pleading standard does not disclose the facts underlying a plaintiff’s claim for relief, the defendant cannot reasonably be expected to frame a proper, fact-specific…defense…. The Rule 12(e) motion for a more definite statement is perhaps the best procedural tool available to obtain the factual basis underlying a plaintiff’s claim for relief.” Thus, since the complaint did not clearly articulate the legal and factual footing for any statutory bad faith claim, and did not even specifically identify a claim under Pennsylvania’s bad faith statute, directing the insured to provide a more definite statement at the outset was deemed the prudent, appropriate exercise of the court’s discretion.
Date of Decision: Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge April 30, 2014 (Carlson, M.J.), adopted by District Court, May 23, 2014
Hoffer v. Grange Ins. Co., CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:14-CV-0262 , 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70789 (M.D. Pa. May 23, 2014) (Conner, J.)