United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS
C. COUGHENOUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant the Hartford
Insurance Company's motion to dismiss or substitute and
amend the caption (Dkt. Nos. 12) and Defendants Carrie Still
and Jane Johnson's motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 13).
Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and
the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument
unnecessary and hereby DENIES Defendants' motions for the
reasons explained herein.
Glen Walker and Patricia B'Hymer, acting pro se,
filed a complaint in King County Superior Court on April 26,
2017 and an amended complaint on July 14, 2017, naming as
defendants the “Hartford Insurance Company” and
employees Carrie Still and Jane Johnson. Plaintiffs'
complaint alleges that the Harford Insurance Company falsely
denied their insurance claims for the theft and destruction
of a number of their vehicles and acted in bad faith in doing
so, causing Plaintiffs emotional distress. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at
1.) The Washington State Insurance Commissioner accepted
service of the amended complaint on behalf of Twin City Fire
Insurance Company (“Twin City”). (Dkt. No. 13 at
2.) Defendants removed the case to federal court on August 9,
2017 (Dkt. No. 3.) Defendants Still and Johnson now move to
be dismissed as parties. (Dkt. No. 13.) The Hartford
Insurance Company moves to dismiss the complaint or to
substitute Twin City and amend the case caption to reflect
this substitution. (Dkt. No. 12.) Plaintiff's reply
requests and additional thirty days to retain an attorney and
amend the complaint. (Dkt. No. 15.)
Rule 12(b)(6) Standard
defendant may move for dismissal when a plaintiff
“fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). On a 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss, the Court accepts all factual allegations in the
complaint as true and construes them in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. Vasquez v. L.A.
County, 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007). To survive
a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must cite facts supporting a
“plausible” cause of action. Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). A claim
has “facial plausibility” when the party seeking
relief “pleads factual content that allows the Court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 672 (2009) (internal quotations
omitted). The Rule 8 pleading standard “does not
require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it
demands more than an unadorned,
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted).
Plaintiffs who proceed pro se “must be held to
less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342
(9th Cir. 2010). Additionally, pro se litigants are
entitled to notice of deficiencies in a complaint and leave
to amend before a district court can dismiss such a
complaint. Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261
(9th Cir. 1992).
Claims against Hartford Insurance Company
move to dismiss claims against “Hartford Insurance
Company, ” asserting that this company is not a legal
entity in existence and did not issue the policy at issue.
(Dkt. No. 12.) In the alternative, Defendant asks the Court
to substitute Twin Cities as the named defendant.
(Id.) Defendants' corporate disclosure statement
identifies Twin City as the underwriting company that issued
the policy. (Dkt. No. 4 at 1.) Twin City is owned by Hartford
Fire Insurance Company, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of
Hartford Financial Services Group. (Id.)
Court considers this motion in the context of the recent
removal of the case to federal court, and Plaintiffs'
current pro se status and request for time to amend
the complaint. (Dkt. Nos. 1, 15). In light of these
circumstances, the Court will grant Plaintiffs leave to amend
the complaint and name a legal entity that may be sued.
Plaintiffs have thirty (30) days from the issuance of this
order to amend the complaint.
Claims against Employees Carrie Still and Jane
complaint names Defendants Carrie Still and Jane Johnson, who
are employed by the Hartford Fire Insurance Company and work
respectively as an investigator and claims team leader for
Twin City. (Dkt. Nos. 5, 6, 13 at 2.) Still and Johnson
assert they have not yet been served in this action. (Dkt.
No. 13 at 2.)
move to dismiss the complaint against them because it fails
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and cannot
be rectified by amendment. (Dkt. No. 13 at 3); see
Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6). The complaint alleges generally
that Hartford Insurance falsely denied Plaintiffs'
insurance claims in bad faith and caused them emotional
distress by doing so. (Dkt. No. 1-1.) The complaint does not
put forward specific allegations against Still or Johnson,
other than stating that Walker met with Still and offered to
provide evidence about his claim, which Still stated she did
not need at the time. (Id.)
in this district have held that under Washington consumer
protection and insurance fair conduct acts and tort law, when
an employee adjuster of an insurance company acts as an agent
of the company and within the scope of employment, she is
generally not subject to liability for bad faith or
negligence in the company's denial of an insurance claim.
See International Ultimate, Inc. v. St. Paul Fire &
Marine Ins. Co.,87 P.3d 774, 786-87 (Ct. App. Wash.
2004); Garoutte v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co.,
Case No. C12-1787-MJP, Dkt. No. 23 at 3 (W.D. Wash. 2013).
Plaintiffs' complaint does not allege that Still or
Johnson acted as more than adjusters ...