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Maniello v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

February 6, 2017


          OPINION & ORDER

          NINA GERSHON, United States District Judge

         Before the court is defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company's ("State Farm's") motion to dismiss plaintiff Gelsomina Maniello's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion is granted and plaintiffs complaint is dismissed with prejudice as to State Farm.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff brought this action for declaratory judgment, breach of contract and bad faith against State Farm in New York state court on March 3, 2016. Plaintiffs claims stem from denial of insurance coverage for damage to plaintiffs property in Whitestone, New York (the "property"), for which plaintiff had purchased a homeowner's insurance policy (the "policy") from State Farm. Complaint ¶¶8-9; Policy (Welch Decl. Ex. B) at 1. Plaintiffs neighbors, Argyris and Polytimi Tsenesidis ("the Tsenesidises") are also named as defendants; however the complaint sets forth no allegations against, and seeks no relief from, the Tsenesidises. The complaint alleges that the Tsenesidises are named "as nominal Defendants in order to provide them with notice of the action." Complaint ¶7.

         The policy was in effect from November 1, 2005 to November 1, 2006. Complaint ¶9. The text of the policy provides that "[n]o action shall be brought unless there has been compliance with the policy provisions and the action is started within two years after the occurrence causing loss or damage." Policy at 34.

         In or around April 2006, the retaining wall of the property was damaged. Plaintiff submitted a claim to State Farm for that damage that month. Complaint ¶9; May 8, 2006 Letter Disclaiming Coverage (Carriero Decl. Ex. A) ("May 8 Letter") at 1. On May 8, 2006, State Farm disclaimed coverage of plaintiff s claim, informing plaintiff that the damage was excluded from her coverage under the policy. Complaint ¶¶16-17; May 8 Letter. Specifically, State Farm explained that plaintiffs policy did not cover damage from earth movement and that all the damage to plaintiffs property had resulted from earth movement that had caused "soil retained by the seawall [to become] misplaced." May 8 Letter at 1-3. State Farm's letter disclaiming coverage noted that an inspection showed that this earth movement had been caused by excavation and construction on an adjacent property. Id. at 1.

         As a result of State Farm's denial of coverage, plaintiff believed she did not have a valid claim under the policy. Complaint ¶18. Plaintiff proceeded to sue the Tsenesidises in New York state court, claiming they caused the collapse of her retaining wall and seeking money damages. Id. ¶¶l 8-22. That action was scheduled for trial at the time this complaint was filed. Id. ¶23.

         Plaintiff does not dispute that the present action, brought in 2016, was filed almost ten years after the damage to the property and State Farm's disclaimer of coverage, well outside of both the two-year limitations period set forth in the policy and the six-year limitation for contract claims set forth in N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 213(2). Plaintiff, however, claims that these limitations should be tolled because State Farm should have known about plaintiffs action against the Tsenesidises and should have informed the Tsenesidises of its disclaimer of coverage. Complaint ¶¶24-28. Plaintiff does not allege that the Tsenesidises were parties to the policy or that she informed State Farm of her action against the Tsenesidises.

         State Farm removed this action to this court on April 1, 2016, and then moved to dismiss plaintiffs claim on July 8, 2016. State Farm argues that plaintiffs claims are time-barred. State Farm further contends that, even if I do not dismiss the claims as time-barred, plaintiffs declaratory judgment and bad faith claims should be dismissed because (1) declaratory relief is an inappropriate remedy and represents nothing more than a duplicative claim for breach of contract, and (2) there is no standalone cause of action for bad faith recognized in New York.

         On this motion to dismiss, defendant has offered the policy itself, and plaintiff has offered State Farm's letter disclaiming coverage. Neither document was attached to the complaint. I have, however, considered both these documents, as they are integral to the complaint, which refers to both the contract and the denial of coverage, and relies heavily on the terms and effect of both. See Nicosia v., Inc., 834 F.3d 220, 234 (2d Cir. 2016). No dispute exists regarding the authenticity or accuracy of these documents, and there is no material disputed issue of fact regarding their relevance. See Id. at 231. For these reasons, it is unnecessary to convert this Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. See In re Bank of N.Y.Mellon Corp. Forex Transactions Litig., 921 F.Supp.2d 56, 70 n.79 (S.D.N.Y. 2013); see also Mangiafico v. Blumenthal, 471 F.3d 391, 398 (2d Cir. 2006).

         II. Discussion

         a. Standard

         "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). This standard is met "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. A court should not dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim if the factual allegations sufficiently "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         b. Plaintiffs claim for breach of ...

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