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McLafferty v. Safeco Insurance Company of Indiana

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 16, 2014

Jared McLafferty, Plaintiff,
v.
Safeco Insurance Company of Indiana, Defendant.

Mark A. Smith, Esq. and Wrobel & Smith, PLLP, St. Paul, MN, counsel for plaintiff.

Brendan R. Tupa, Esq., and Law Offices of Thomas P. Stilp, Golden Hills Office Center, Minneapolis, MN, counsel for defendant.

ORDER

DAVID S. DOTY, District Judge.

This matter is before the court upon the motion to strike by defendant Safeco Insurance Company of Indiana (Safeco). Based on a review of the file, record and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court denies the motion.

BACKGROUND

This contract dispute arises out of injuries sustained by plaintiff Jared McLafferty in a September 2012 motor vehicle accident while he was a passenger in a vehicle driven by non-party Matthew White. Compl. ¶ 3. On the date of the accident, McLafferty was insured under a Safeco policy providing underinsured motorist coverage. Id . ¶ 4. Progressive Drive Insurance, which insured White, tendered its limit of $30, 000 in liability coverage to McLafferty in October 2013. Id . ¶¶ 7, 10. The Progressive payment was inadequate to fully compensate McLafferty for his injuries and damages. Id . ¶ 13. McLafferty notified Safeco of his intent to claim underinsured motorist benefits and submitted several such claims. Id . ¶¶ 11, 14. Safeco declined to pay according to the policy limits, offering McLafferty an unspecified lesser amount in compensation. Id . ¶¶ 14-16.

On February 14, 2014, McLafferty filed this action in Minnesota state court, alleging breach of contract. Safeco timely removed, and moves to strike several paragraphs of the complaint.

DISCUSSION

Safeco moves to strike paragraphs 14, 15, 16 and 17 of the complaint[1] under Rules 8(a)(2) and 12(f). McLafferty responds that the paragraphs contain properly asserted allegations that comply with federal pleading rules and Minnesota Statutes § 604.18.

A. Rule 8

Safeco first argues that paragraphs 14, 15, 16 and 17 should be stricken because they violate Rule 8(a)(2). Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a pleading contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Where a pleading fails to provide such a statement, the court may strike the complaint or a portion of it. See Schmidt v. Hermann , 614 F.2d 1221, 1224 (9th Cir. 1980). Specifically, Safeco argues that the challenged paragraphs relate to an as-yet unpleaded claim for taxable costs under Minnesota Statues § 604.18 and, thus, do not show that McLafferty is entitled to relief on the breach of contract claim.

As an initial matter, though the challenged paragraphs may ultimately relate to a § 604.18 claim, they may also relate to the breach of contract claim. Under Minnesota law, a "claim of breach of contract requires proof of three elements: (1) the formation of a contract, (2) the performance of conditions precedent by the plaintiff, and (3) the breach of the contract by the defendant." Thomas B. Olson & Assocs., P.A. v. Leffert, Jay & Polglaze, P.A. , 756 N.W.2d 907, 918 (Minn.Ct.App. 2008) (citations omitted). Each of the paragraphs at issue refers in part to demands for payment by McLafferty or denials for payment by Safeco, and are potentially relevant to the underlying breach of contract claim.

Further, § 604.18 allows taxable costs if the insured can show: "(1) the absence of a reasonable basis for denying the benefits of the insurance policy; and (2) that the insurer knew of the lack of a reasonable basis for denying the benefits of the insurance policy or acted in reckless disregard of the lack of a reasonable basis to do so." Friedberg v. Chubb & Son, Inc. , 800 F.Supp.2d 1020, 1025 (D. Minn. 2011) (Keyes, M.J.) (citation omitted). According to the statute,

[u]pon commencement of a civil action by an insured against an insurer, the complaint must not seek a recovery under this section. After filing the suit, a party may make a motion to amend the pleadings to claim recovery of taxable costs under this section. The motion must allege the applicable legal basis under this section for awarding taxable costs under this ...

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