Gist Of The Action Remains Useful In PA Motion Practice
In Moravia Motorcycle, Inc. v. Allstate Insurance Company, plaintiffs brought the following claims in connection with damage sustained to a motor home: (1) negligent misrepresentation; (2) breach of contract; and (3) bad faith. Allstate moved for summary judgment on Counts I and III. The claim arose from a curious scenario, as the plaintiffs’ motorhome was parked in a lot they owned when a tree branch fell on the roof, causing serious water damage.
In Count I, plaintiffs alleged Allstate was negligent by misrepresenting the status of the policy by, among other things, failing to fully advise as to the actual terms of coverage and failing to inspect the motor home in a workmanlike manner, which led to additional damages associated with mold and electrical issues, and eventually, complete loss of the motor home. Specifically, it was alleged that an adjuster originally verbally indicated the claim was covered, and the plaintiffs thereafter started the repair process on their vehicle at an approved mechanic. In the meantime, Allstate sent a second adjuster and inspector and denied the claim entirely.
Allstate argued plaintiffs’ negligence allegations should be dismissed under the gist of action doctrine, as the duty Allstate owed to plaintiffs arose pursuant to the contractual relationship (Count II) between the parties, not from a separate societal duty as would be necessary in tort. The court agreed and dismissed Count I, stating, “[i]f Allstate wrongly denied coverage, Plaintiffs have a claim for breach of contract.”
In Count III, plaintiffs alleged Allstate engaged in bad faith by stating the loss was covered, only later to inform plaintiffs, without explanation, the loss was in fact not covered. This allegation alone was sufficient to overcome Allstate’s Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) as to Count III.
This decision highlights the gist of action doctrine as an important tool in the preliminary stages of litigation and the importance of maintaining one, consistent message.
Thanks to Richard Dunne for his contribution to this article. Should you have any questions, please contact Matthew Care.