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Mark R. Laskowski and Richard Hall v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company

October 19, 2011

MARK R. LASKOWSKI AND RICHARD HALL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
LIBERTY MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiffs Mark R. Laskowski and Richard Hall commenced this action*fn1 against defendant Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company (Liberty), asserting claims for declaratory judgment, breach of contract, violation of a duty of good faith and fair dealing, and violation of N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law § 349 (McKinney 2004). (Compl. ¶¶ 27-62, Dkt. No. 1.) Pending is Liberty's motion to dismiss Laskowski and Hall's declaratory judgment, good faith and fair dealing and N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law § 349 claims. (See Dkt. No. 13.) For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

II. Background*fn2

On January 10, 2010, fire consumed the Eaton, New York home of plaintiffs Laskowski and Hall, causing significant damage to the structure and its contents. (Compl. ¶¶ 7-9, Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiffs held a homeowners insurance policy on the home through Liberty. (Id. ¶ 8.) Following the January 10 fire, Laskowski and Hall notified Liberty of the damage and submitted a claim under their insurance policy. (Id. ¶ 10.) One year later, Liberty denied Laskowski and Hall's claim on the grounds that they failed to cooperate with Liberty's investigation and that they set the fire or caused it to be set. (Id. ¶ 11.) Liberty also cancelled Laskowski and Hall's homeowners insurance policy. (Id. ¶ 21.)

Despite Liberty's contentions that plaintiffs failed to cooperate with its fire investigation, Laskowski and Hall contend that they retained fire consultants to investigate the blaze and offered to share the findings of those consultants with Liberty. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) While initially agreeing to meet with Laskowski and Hall's consultants, Liberty reneged on that offer and issued a denial of coverage without reviewing the consultant's findings. (Id. ¶ 16.) Laskowski and Hall also allege that in conducting its investigation, Liberty ignored the Madison County fire investigator's conclusion that the fire was accidental. (Id. ¶ 13.) As a result of Liberty's refusal to pay any portion of Laskowski and Hall's loss, plaintiffs allege that they have incurred additional and continuing living expenses, and that the damage to their Eaton home has significantly worsened. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 20.)

III. Standard of Review

The standard of review under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard, the court refers the parties to its previous opinion in Ellis v. Cohen & Slamowitz, LLP, 701 F. Supp. 2d 215, 218 (N.D.N.Y. 2010).

IV. Discussion

A. Declaratory Judgment

In their first cause of action, Laskowski and Hall request judicial declaration that Liberty is "obligated to perform its contractual obligation" and that "[p]laintiffs are entitled to coverage for the full amount of their

[l]oss." (Compl. ¶ 30, Dkt. No. 1.) Liberty moves unopposed to dismiss Laskowski and Hall's claim on the grounds that declaratory relief is inappropriate where, as here, a plaintiff possesses an alternative remedy. (Dkt. No. 13.) The court agrees. Accordingly, Liberty's motion to dismiss Laskowski and Hall's claim for declaratory judgment is granted and plaintiffs' first cause of action is dismissed.

B. Duty of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

In their third cause of action, Laskowski and Hall allege that Liberty is liable for a violation of "the duty of good faith and fair dealing" (Compl. ΒΆΒΆ 35-45., Dkt. No. 1.) Liberty seeks to dismiss Laskowski and Hall's third claim because it is duplicative of their breach of contract claim and lacks a ...


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