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May 2017 Bad Faith Cases: Deceptive Conduct After Policy Is Issued May Be Subject To Section 8371 Relief (Philadelphia Federal)

This case involves a dispute over the number of premium payments the insured was required to make. The insured thought it only had to make 6 payments each on two life insurance policies, and investment income would cover the rest. The income was insufficient and more premiums were sought. A number of misrepresentation theories were pleaded along with a statutory bad faith claim, which the insurer moved to dismiss. The bad faith claim was based on allegations that the insurer “intentionally reduced its investment return projections in order to conceal the risks associated with its vanishing premium scheme and to secure additional premium payments on the Policies.

In addressing the bad faith claim, the court observed that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Toy found that the bad faith statute “does not give relief to an insured who alleges that his insurer engaged in unfair or deceptive practices in soliciting the purchase of a policy.” The court went on to state that “despite the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s holding in Toy, which appeared to narrowly limit the circumstances under which a § 8371 claim of bad faith can arise, a number of courts have allowed bad faith claims in contexts beyond an insurer’s failure to indemnify or pay the insured.”

The court distinguished Toy, noting here that the bad faith claims not only included representations to induce sale of the insurance policies, but the insured also pleaded “deceptive practices occurring after the execution of the Policies,” i.e., the alleged manipulation of investment returns on the premiums paid. The court found that these allegations fell within the realm of “conduct in connection with [the] discharge of … obligations … after purchase” (emphasis in original) and so were actionable bad faith claims. Thus, the motion to dismiss was denied, and “[w]hether the deceptive conduct alleged … arose in the context of [the insurer’s] discharge of its obligations under the Policies will become more apparent through fact discovery.”

Date of Decision: April 13, 2017

West Chester University Foundation v. Metlife Insurance Co., No. 15-3627, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56547 (E.D. Pa. April 13, 2017) (C. Darnell Jones, II, J.)