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Watson v. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

September 19, 2017




         Before the Court is Defendant Allstate Insurance Company's Motion to Dismiss. Docket No. 13. After considering the allegations, arguments, and applicable law, the Court grants in part and denies in part Allstate's Motion.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         Kerrick Watson purchased a home insurance policy from Allstate. Docket No. 1-1 at 3. In December 2015, Watson's home and personal property were destroyed by a fire. Id. Watson filed an insurance claim with Allstate. Id. After conducting its own investigation, Allstate denied Watson's claim because he “intentionally overstated the value of the personal property damaged by the fire” and “made additional misrepresentations during the investigation of the claim.” Id. at 16.

         Watson filed this suit in Warren County Circuit Court in 2016, alleging several state law claims against Allstate. Docket No. 1-1. The action was properly removed to this Court on December 28, 2016, pursuant to diversity jurisdiction. Docket No. 1. Allstate now seeks dismissal of four of Watson's claims: breach of fiduciary duty; estoppel and detrimental reliance; negligent, grossly negligent, and wanton failure to monitor and train agents and adjusters; and indemnity. Docket No. 13. Watson filed a response, Docket No. 15, to which Allstate filed a rebuttal. Docket No. 22.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of an action that fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court accepts all factual allegations as true and makes all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff's complaint “must contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 677-78 (quotation marks and citation omitted). The plaintiff's claims need not include “detailed factual allegations, ” but the complaint must contain “more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. at 678 (quotation marks and citation omitted). The plaintiff must also plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “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.” Hale v. King, 642 F.3d 492, 499 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         Since Iqbal, the Fifth Circuit has clarified that the Supreme Court's “emphasis on the plausibility of a complaint's allegations does not give district courts license to look behind those allegations and independently assess the likelihood that the plaintiff will be able to prove them at trial.” Harold H. Huggins Realty, Inc. v. FNC, Inc., 634 F.3d 787, 803 n.4 (5th Cir. 2011). The plausibility standard calls only “for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary claims or elements.” Flagg v. Stryker Corp. 647 Fed. App'x. 314, 316 (5th Cir. 2016) (internal quotations and citation omitted).

         In a diversity action, the applicable substantive law is that of the forum state, Mississippi. Capital City Ins. Co. v. Hurst, 632 F.3d 898, 902 (5th Cir. 2011). State law is determined by looking to the decisions of the state's highest court. United Teacher Assoc. Ins. Co. v. Union Labor Life Ins. Co., 414 F.3d 558, 565 (5th Cir. 2005).

         III. Discussion

         A. Breach of Fiduciary Duty

         Watson asserts that Allstate breached its fiduciary duty by refusing to honor the terms of Watson's insurance policy. Docket No. 1-1 at 6. Allstate argues that it owes Watson no such duty, as “there can be no fiduciary duty between an insurer and insured in a first party scenario.” Docket No. 15 at 4. The Court agrees with Allstate.

         “To maintain an action for breach of fiduciary duty, a fiduciary relationship must exist.” Gibson v. Markel Int'l, Ltd., No. 1:07-cv-1245-HSO-JMR, 2008 WL 3842977, at *6 (S.D.Miss. Aug. 14, 2008) (citing Skinner v. USAble Life,200 F.Supp.2d 636, 641 (S.D.Miss. 2001)). Under Mississippi law, an insurer does not owe a fiduciary duty to the insured in the context ...

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