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Smith v. Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Co.

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

August 22, 2017

John W. Smith and Donna B. Smith, Plaintiffs,
v.
Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Co., Universal Risk Advisors, Inc., Universal Adjusting Corporation, Janelle Stevens, and The Ulmer Agency, Inc., Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         Before the court is a motion to remand the case to the Court of Common Pleas for Orangeburg County, [1] South Carolina filed by Plaintiffs John W. and Donna B. Smith (“Plaintiffs”) (ECF No. 9.) Defendants Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Co., Universal Risk Advisors, Inc., Universal Adjusting Corporation, Janelle Stevens (together, “Universal”), and The Ulmer Agency, Inc. (“Ulmer”) (collectively, “Defendants”) oppose Plaintiffs' motion and ask the court to retain jurisdiction. (ECF Nos. 19, 20.) For the reasons set forth herein, the court GRANTS Plaintiffs' motion to remand (ECF No. 9).

         I. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On October 4, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas for Orangeburg County, South Carolina, containing the following allegations. (ECF No. 1-1.) Plaintiffs, citizens of South Carolina, had a homeowner's insurance policy with Universal, a non- South Carolina insurer, which was procured through the services of Ulmer, a South Carolina insurance agency. (Id. at 5-7.) On June 25, 2015, a fire destroyed Plaintiffs' home, and, on the following day, Plaintiffs filed a claim under the policy. (Id. at 7.) In response to the claim and numerous other requests, Universal tendered several offers, but Plaintiffs allege that none of the offers were up to the full coverage limits in the policy. (Id. at 7-8.)

         With respect to Ulmer, the complaint alleges that

[Ulmer] undertook a duty to advise Plaintiffs by assuring Plaintiffs that [Ulmer] would procure insurance that would meet and satisfy Plaintiffs' needs, namely to provide Plaintiffs with replacement cost coverage up to the limits of the policy. Moreover, [Ulmer] knew or should have known their advice was being requested and relied upon by Plaintiffs. Additionally, [Ulmer] knew that Plaintiffs had in fact reposed special trust and confidence in them with respect to their recommendation and selection of coverage for Plaintiffs' needs. By assuming or undertaking the duty to advise Plaintiffs and act as their fiduciary, [Ulmer] was required to exercise due care in giving advice and so acting.
[Ulmer] breached its duty of care and thereby acted negligently by failing to procure insurance coverage that met Plaintiffs' needs . . . .
. . . .
Plaintiffs directly informed [Ulmer] . . . of the coverage needed on their home, including a policy that would pay full replacement cost up to the policy limits.
[Ulmer] . . . represented to Plaintiffs that the Policy procured for Plaintiffs [Ulmer] would meet Plaintiffs' specific needs.
. . . .
As described above, [Ulmer] unambiguously warranted and promised Plaintiffs that [Universal] would provide the requested insurance coverage for damages caused to Plaintiffs' home or that they would procure the coverage necessary to protect Plaintiffs and their home.
. . . .
[Ulmer] . . . had and has fiduciary relationships and owed fiduciary duties and obligations to Plaintiffs. [Ulmer] at all times relevant was or should have been aware of the specific expectations and insurance needs of Plaintiffs, its failure to properly investigate the insurance coverage it procured and recommended for Plaintiffs, its failure to properly consider Plaintiffs' expectations and needs, and its failure to properly safeguard the rights and interests of Plaintiffs as described above.
. . . . [Ulmer] breached its fiduciary duties owed to Plaintiffs, including but not limited to the duty to perform the . . . promise of providing insurance coverage to Plaintiffs ...

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