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Johnson v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

July 6, 2009

CINSEREE JOHNSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge

ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company's ("State Farm") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Cinseree Johnson's ("Johnson") Amended Complaint [#9]. For the reasons set forth below, this Court GRANTS State Farm's Motion.

BACKGROUND

On March 24, 2009, Johnson filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Damages against State Farm and on April 8, 2009, she filed an Amended Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Damages. In her Amended Complaint, she asserts that she is the Administrator for the Estate of Matthew Norman ("Decedent"), an individual who had State Farm automobile insurance. Johnson alleges that on or about July 1, 2007, Decedent was involved in an automobile accident. As a result of this accident, a civil case, Michael Haut v. Matthew Norman, CV-08-667337 ("pending civil matter"), was commenced in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in Ohio on or about August 7, 2008.

State Farm informed Johnson that it had hired Attorney Terrance Kenneally ("Kenneally") to represent Decedent in the pending civil matter.

Johnson maintains that on or about September 1, 2008, when she telephoned Kenneally and State Farm to inform them of Decedent's death, Kenneally "seemed confused and unorganized." On or about December 12, 2008, the pending civil matter was amended to name Johnson as a Defendant. From December 13, 2008, forward, Johnson has informed both State Farm and Kenneally that she disapproves of Kenneally's performance and that she did not want him to represent her or Decedent in the pending civil matter. Johnson states that State Farm informed her that, pursuant to the terms of the Decedent's insurance contract, it had the right to employ a defense attorney in the pending civil matter.

This current action arises because Johnson remains unhappy with Kenneally's representation. She alleges that Kenneally's continued representation amounts to a due process violation, a violation of a contractual agreement, and fraud. She asks this Court to enter an Order stating that: (1) State Farm may not interfere with her rights to represent herself or that of the Estate to which she has been named Administrator; (2) State Farm may not employ Kenneally on her behalf without her consent; and (3) State Farm will honor the terms of the insurance policy with respect to any settlement, and that she has the right to participate in, or negotiate settlement on behalf of herself or Decedent and that State Farm will not interfere with her efforts to resolve and settle the pending civil matter. In addition, Johnson seeks damages in the amount of $145,000 for State Farm's willful disregard for the terms of the insurance agreement, fraud, and violation of Plaintiff's due process rights as a legal representative for the Decedent.

On April 17, 2008, State Farm moved to dismiss Johnson's Amended Complaint, arguing that its insurance policy language makes clear that State Farm has the right to select counsel, and Johnson has a concomitant duty to cooperate in the defense of the case. State Farm also asserts that where, as here, neither the Decedent nor Johnson, as the Administrator of Decedent's Estate, has any exposure beyond the insurer's policy limits, no basis exists to interfere with the insurer's conduct of the litigation, for which it has agreed to indemnify its insured.

DISCUSSION

A complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears from the pleadings that the plaintiff could prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957); Gould v. Artisoft, Inc., 1 F.3d 544, 548 (7th Cir. 1993). Rather, a complaint should be construed broadly and liberally in conformity with the mandate in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(f).

For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the complaint is construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, its well-pleaded factual allegations are taken as true, and all reasonably-drawn inferences are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. See Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69 (1984); Lanigan v. Village of East Hazel Crest, 110 F.3d 467 (7th Cir. 1997); M.C.M. Partners, Inc. v. Andrews-Bartlett & Assoc., Inc., 62 F.3d 967, 969 (7th Cir. 1995); Early v. Bankers Life & Cas. Co., 959 F.2d 75 (7th Cir. 1992).

Jurisdiction

The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1332. Johnson is a resident of Ohio and State Farm is an Illinois corporation, with its principle place of business in Illinois, ...


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