Eastern District of Pennsylvania Declines to Remand Bad Faith Claims, Holding that Fraudulently Joined Claims Adjuster did not Defeat Diversity
Mariano and Joanne Mattei filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County against Liberty Mutual and the claims adjuster assigned to Mariano Mattei’s claim for coverage relating to a 2015 motor vehicle accident. In the lawsuit, Mariano Mattei alleged that: (1) Liberty Mutual failed to honor the underinsured motorist provision of his insurance contract and acted in bad faith in its handling of his claim; and (2) the claims adjuster acted in bad faith by requesting information only in an effort to delay litigation and prepare Liberty Mutual’s defenses. Joanne Mattei claimed loss of consortium. Liberty Mutual filed a notice of removal in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania alleging that the claims adjuster was fraudulently joined to defeat diversity of citizenship. Plaintiffs moved to remand.
In Mattei v. Liberty Mutual Insurance, No. 18-4643 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 1, 2019), the court denied Plaintiffs’ motion to remand, finding that the claims adjuster was fraudulently joined. In so holding, the court first relied on its decision in Reto v. Liberty Mutual Insurance, No. 18-2483 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 8, 2018)—a case featured in a Bad Faith Sentinel blog post available here—which held that a claims adjuster is not an insurer within the meaning of the Pennsylvania bad faith statute. In its opinion, the court in Mattei reiterated that “it is well-settled that Pennsylvania’s bad faith statute applies only to insurance companies” and held that Mariano Mattei consequently lacked a colorable basis to support his statutory bad faith claim against the claims adjuster.
Next, the court addressed Liberty Mutual’s argument that Mattei also lacked a colorable basis to support a common law bad faith claim against the claims adjuster. First, the court found that Mattei could not state a common law bad faith claim sounding in contract. In support of this finding, the court cited (1) the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ characterization of a common law bad faith claim as a contract claim; and (2) the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s holding that an insurance adjuster cannot be held liable to an insured for breach of contract. Second, the court found that Mattei could not state a common law bad faith claim sounding in tort, noting that judges in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania “have concluded that Pennsylvania law would not support an insured’s tortious bad faith claim against a claims adjuster.” Because Mariano Mattei’s statutory and common law bad faith claims failed, Joanne Mattei’s derivative loss of consortium claim also failed.
Having concluded that Mariano Mattei lacked a colorable basis to support either a statutory or common law bad faith claim against the adjuster, the court held that the claims adjuster was fraudulently joined and denied Plaintiffs’ motion to remand.