A Pennsylvania judge has denied insurance giant State Farm’s bid to end a bad-faith lawsuit that alleges the company refused to reimburse a man who had been charged for stacking insurance coverage even though he owned only one vehicle.
Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson last month rejected State Farm’s preliminary objection motion that sought to dismiss the bad-faith claim brought by plaintiff Anthony Caputo.
Although State Farm contended the claims should be dismissed because Caputo never told the company he wished to discontinue stacking, Massiah-Jackson said that argument was “audacious,” given Caputo’s allegations the company “masked the stacking coverage by failing to disclose it [to Caputo] for 18 years.”
“At trial it will be up to the parties to explore, inter alia, whether there was a reasonable basis for State Farm to charge higher premiums for ‘illusory’ coverage for 18 years; whether State Farm engaged in good faith and fair dealing when it refused to reimburse to plaintiff the full amounts due after it was on notice and conceded overages; whether State Farm had any reasonable explanation for entering 18 years of contracts which included stacking coverage when it had actual knowledge such contracts were clearly erroneous; whether State Farm intentionally or recklessly withheld information about the stacking coverage from the declaration pages,” Massiah-Jackson said in the four-page opinion denying State Farm’s motion.
Caputo sued State Farm in August 2016, lodging one claim of bad faith and one count of conversion.
According to the complaint, in 1998 State Farm sold Caputo a policy for two vehicles that allowed for stacking of benefits; however, later that year one of Caputo’s vehicles was stolen.
Caputo said he reported the theft to State Farm, and the vehicle was deleted from his insurance policy, but the carrier continued to charge him for stacked coverage for 15 years. Added to that, Caputo alleged that the stacking coverage was not documented on the declaration sheets issued to him, which, he alleged, concealed the stacking and prevented him from knowing about the additional coverage he was paying for.
Caputo said he did not become aware of the improper charges until March 2016, and, soon after, he made a demand from the company for reimbursement of all premiums he had paid for the stacked coverage. Caputo said in the complaint that State Farm reimbursed him only from the date his car was stolen to October 2009.
The case was initially removed to federal court, but the case was remanded to state court after a federal judge determined Caputo’s damages would not exceed $75,000.
In attempting to dismiss the case, State Farm contended that the bad-faith claims were overly broad and failed to state a valid claim.
Massiah-Jackson, however, determined there was enough of a question of fact regarding the claims to allow them to survive the preliminary objections stage.
Caputo’s attorney, Jeffrey Zimmerman of Rovner, Allen, Rovner, Zimmerman & Nash, declined to comment. State Farm’s attorney, Lee Ullman of Forry Ullman, did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday afternoon.