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Colter v. Omni Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division

July 12, 2016

Allison Colter, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
Omni Insurance Company and Omni Indemnity Company, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         Plaintiff Allison Colter ("Plaintiff"), on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, filed the instant putative class action seeking damages from Defendants Omni Insurance Company and Omni Indemnity Company (together "Defendants") for their alleged imposition of an illegal and unauthorized "betterment" or depreciation charge on property settlements for accidents. (ECF No. 1-1.)

         This matter is before the court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (ECF No. 17). Specifically, Defendants argue that they are entitled to dismissal of this matter "because a ‘betterment' [or depreciation charge] is not illegal in South Carolina and because each and every cause of action raised by Plaintiff is based on the incorrect assertion that a ‘betterment' is illegal in South Carolina, Plaintiff has failed to state any claim for which relief can be granted by this court and this court must dismiss the Complaint with prejudice." (ECF No. 17 at 2.) Plaintiff opposes Defendants' Motion to Dismiss asserting that her "Complaint clearly and succinctly sets out facts sufficient to support the causes of action; specifically, that Omni has acted wrongfully towards its insureds and third parties by deducting ‘betterments' from property damage settlements." (ECF No. 25 at 2.)

         For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND TO PENDING MOTIONS

         Defendants are automobile insurers for Kayla McDaniels (the "Insured"). (ECF No. 1-1 at 3 ¶ 5.) On February 17, 2015, Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident with Defendants' Insured. (Id.) After determining that their Insured was liable for the damage to Plaintiff's vehicle, Defendants told Plaintiff that she would receive payment for her damages equal to her repair estimate minus a betterment or depreciation charge for certain damaged parts. (Id. at ¶ 6.) Specifically, Defendants deducted a betterment charge of $313.87 from the total repair bill of $4, 291.80 to account for depreciation in the muffler. (Id. at 9.)

         Because she believes the betterment charge is illegal and not allowed under South Carolina law, Plaintiff filed an action in the Richland County (South Carolina) Court of Common Pleas on September 18, 2015, asserting causes of action against Defendants for breach of contract, fraud, violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act ("SCUTPA"), SC Code Ann. §§ 39-5-10 to -560 (2014), negligent misrepresentation, and negligence. (ECF No. 1-1 at 4-7.) On October 8, 2015, Defendants removed the matter to this court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (ECF No. 1.) After removing the matter, Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss on December 4, 2015. (ECF No. 17.) Plaintiff filed opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss on December 21, 2015. (ECF No. 25.)

         On June 28, 2016, the court held a hearing on the pending Motion. (ECF No. 66.)

         II. JURISDICTION

         The court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1) based on Defendants' allegations that there is complete diversity of citizenship between Plaintiff and Defendants, and the amount in controversy herein exceeds the sum of Seventy-Five Thousand ($75, 000.00) Dollars, exclusive of interest and costs. (See ECF No. 1 at 2 ¶¶ 4-5.)

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted "challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint." Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted); see also Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) ("A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) . . . does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses."). To be legally sufficient a pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim should not be granted unless it appears certain that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would support her claim and would entitle her to relief. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). When considering a motion to dismiss, the court should accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and should view the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Ostrzenski v. Seigel, 177 F.3d 245, 251 (4th Cir. 1999); Mylan Labs., Inc., 7 F.3d at 1134. "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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. The ...


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