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Bracken v. USAA General Indemnity Co.

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

November 14, 2019

MICHAEL BRACKEN, Plaintiff,
v.
USAA GENERAL INDEMNITY COMPANY, a Texas Corporation, d/b/a USAA, Defendant. v.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          YOULEE YIM YOU UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pro se plaintiff Michael Bracken brought this action against defendant USAA General Indemnity Company in Multnomah County Circuit Court (Case No. 19CV19058), and defendant timely removed. See Notice Removal, ECF #1. This court has jurisdiction over the action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiff alleges claims for (1) breach of contract, (2) “breach of good faith, ” and (3) “fraud by inducement.” Id., Ex. 1 (“Compl.”), ECF #1-1.

         Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss under F.R.C.P 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Mot. Dismiss (“Mot.”), ECF #6. The court finds this matter suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to L.R. 7-1(d)(1). For the reasons discussed below, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED. The First Claim is dismissed with prejudice, while the Second and Third Claims are dismissed without prejudice and with leave to amend.

         STANDARDS

         To state a claim for relief, a pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” F.R.C.P. 8(a)(2). This standard “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, '” but does demand “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests whether there is a cognizable legal theory or sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory. Taylor v. Yee, 780 F.3d 928, 935 (9th Cir. 2015). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “the complaint must allege ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the court must accept “all allegations of material fact as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995).

         Federal courts hold a pro se litigant's pleadings to “‘less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)); see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007) (per curiam) (holding that a document filed pro se “is to be liberally construed”; a plaintiff “need only give the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds on which it rests”) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         BACKGROUND

         This dispute arises out of an underinsured motorist (“UIM”) policy issued by defendant to plaintiff. Plaintiff paid defendant an annual premium in exchange for UIM coverage of up to $500, 000. Compl. ¶¶ 18, 20, ECF #1-1.

         On March 31, 2016, plaintiff was riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle when it was struck from behind by another vehicle. Id. ¶ 5. Plaintiff claims he suffered injuries to his face, head, neck, and back in excess of $1, 400, 000. Id. ¶¶ 5, 13. Both drivers carried personal automobile insurance policies with limits of $100, 000, and plaintiff accepted the tender of the limits of both drivers. Id. ¶ 6. Plaintiff filed a UIM claim with defendant seeking the maximum policy amount of $500, 000. Id. ¶¶ 13, 23. Defendant denied plaintiff's request for payment and made plaintiff a settlement offer of $25, 000. Id. ¶ 24.

         On March 5, 2018, plaintiff filed a complaint in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Bracken v. USAA General Indemnity Co., No. 18CV07587 (“Bracken I”), alleging a claim for “underinsured motorist benefits.” Bracken I Compl., ECF #18-1. Plaintiff subsequently amended his complaint to allege a single claim for breach of contract. Bracken I Am. Compl. ¶ 15, ECF #7-1.

         On January 11, 2019, plaintiff filed a motion to amend his complaint to add additional claims for “breach of good faith” and “fraud by inducement.” Opinion 2, ECF #13, at 20. The court denied plaintiff's motion on April 5, 2019, finding that plaintiff waited ten months to file his motion to amend, trial was scheduled to begin on May 20, 2019, and defendant would be prejudiced if the amendment was allowed at such a late date. Id. at 3.

         Thereafter, on April 26, 2019, plaintiff filed a second action in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Bracken v. USAA General Indemnity Co., No. 19CV19058 (“Bracken II”)), in which he alleged the same facts and the same claim (breach of contract), almost verbatim, as the complaint in Bracken I. Compare Bracken I Am. Compl. ¶¶ 5-14, 20, ECF #7-1, with Compl. ¶¶ 5-13, 34, ECF #1-1. Plaintiff also added claims for “breach of good faith” and “fraud by inducement.” Compl. ¶¶ 36-39, ECF #1-1. Bracken II was ultimately removed to this court and resulted in the instant case. Mot. 2, ECF #6.

         On May 16, 2019, Bracken I settled after mediation. Bracken I Tr. Settlement Announcement, ECF #7-2, see also Bracken I Notice Intent Dismiss, ECF #7-3. The parties agreed to “$70, 000 new UIM money for bodily injury” and that although the “settlement is not a settlement of 19-cv-19058, ” it “settles the bodily injury UIM part of that lawsuit.” Bracken I Tr. Settlement Announcement 2, ECF #7-2. Id. On June 26, 2019, by stipulation of the parties, Bracken I was dismissed with prejudice. Bracken I Stipulated General J. Dismissal, ECF #18-2.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Requests for Judicial Notice

         As a preliminary matter, the court considers the parties' requests for judicial notice. See Def.'s Req., ECF #7; Pl.'s Req., #13; Def.'s Req., ECF #18. “Although generally the scope of review on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is limited to the Complaint, a court may consider evidence on which the ‘complaint “necessarily relies” if: (1) the complaint refers to the document; (2) the document is central to the plaintiff's claim; and (3) no party questions the authenticity of the copy attached to the 12(b)(6) motion.'” Daniels-Hall v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Marder v. Lopez, 450 F.3d 445, 448 (9th Cir. 2006)); see alsoF.R.E. 201(b)(2) (“The court may judicially notice a fact that is not subject to reasonable dispute because it . . . can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.”).

         The parties ask the court to take judicial notice of various pleadings from Bracken I. These documents are a matter of public record and not reasonably subject to dispute. See Anderson v. Holder, 673 F.3d 1089, 1094 n.1 (9th Cir. 2012) (holding courts “may take judicial notice of records and reports of administrative bodies”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); Reyn's Pasta Bella, LLC v. Visa USA, Inc., 442 F.3d 741, 746 n.6 (9th Cir. 2006) (holding courts may take “judicial notice of court filings” in another case to determine what issues were presented and litigated); Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001) (“A court may take judicial notice of ‘matters of public record' without converting a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment.”) (citation omitted). Therefore, this court takes judicial notice of the parties' requested materials.

         II. First Claim-Breach of Contract

         In his breach of contract claim, plaintiff alleges that “defendant breached its obligation under [its] policy by failing to pay underinsured motorist coverage benefits.” Compl. ¶ 34, ECF #1-1. As defendant correctly asserts, the doctrine of claim preclusion bars this claim because plaintiff previously sued defendant in Bracken I, alleging breach of contract for unpaid UIM benefits, and that claim was dismissed with prejudice. Mot. 5, 9-12, ECF #6.

         A. Relevant Law ...


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