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Alassaf v. Travelers Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 2, 2014

MOHAMED ALASSAF, Plaintiff,
v.
TRAVELERS CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN F. GRADY, District Judge.

Before the court is defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), which is granted for the reasons explained below.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Mohamed Alassaf, brings this action against defendant, Travelers Casualty Insurance Company of America ("Travelers"), for breach of contract and bad-faith failure to pay a claim in violation of the Illinois Insurance Code. Alassaf operated a business called ABC Carwash, which was located in Alsip, Illinois. In January 2010, Alassaf took out a Travelers "Garage Pac" custom insurance policy, designed for automobile-detailing shops, for ABC Carwash. The policy provided commercial general liability coverage, including property damage, and the policy period ran from March 9, 2010 to March 9, 2011.

On February 1, 2011, while the policy was in effect, ABC Carwash suffered substantial damage from a fire. Plaintiff alleges that the fire was accidental and caused damages in the amount of $93, 841.03.

It is alleged that plaintiff notified Travelers of the loss in a timely manner and submitted a claim to initiate the repair and replacement process. Travelers "ultimately refused to repair" the facility and denied the claim on the ground that the fire was intentionally set. (Compl. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff alleges that his entitlement under the policy to insurance payments for the fire damage is "clear and unambiguous, " that he performed his obligations under the policy, and that defendant's refusal to pay the claim has caused plaintiff a "substantial loss of income, " forcing him to close ABC Carwash. (Compl. ¶¶ 11, 13, 15.) Count I of the complaint is a breach of contract claim. Count II is a claim for violation of the Illinois Insurance Code, 215 ILCS 5/155, for the "unreasonable and vexatious" denial of the insurance claim.

Travelers moves to dismiss the complaint.

DISCUSSION

The purpose of a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to resolve the case on the merits. 5B Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356, at 354 (3d ed. 2004). To survive such a motion, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' 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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570, 556 (2007)). Although we must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint, we need not accept as true its legal conclusions. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id . (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555). "[T]he plaintiff must give enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together." Swanson v. Citibank, N.A. , 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010).

A. Statute of Limitations

The complaint alleges that Alassaf "initiated" the insurance claim on February 18, 2011 and that Travelers denied the claim on February 21, 2013. (Compl. ¶ 18.) This action was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County on December 16, 2013 (and removed to this court on January 13, 2014). Travelers contends that plaintiff has pleaded himself out of court because the allegations of the complaint "establish that the claims are time barred by the insurance policy's two-year suit limitations provision." (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss and Mem. in Supp. at 1.)

A contractual limitations period is an affirmative defense. A plaintiff is not required to negate an affirmative defense in his complaint in order to survive a motion to dismiss. Clark v. City of Braidwood , 318 F.3d 764, 767 (7th Cir. 2003). The exception occurs where "the allegations of the complaint itself set forth everything necessary to satisfy the affirmative defense, such as when a complaint plainly reveals that an action is untimely under the governing statute of limitations." United States v. Lewis , 411 F.3d 838, 842 (7th Cir. 2005).

Plaintiff attached portions of the policy to his complaint, while defendant attached the entire policy to its motion. We can consider the entire policy to be part of the pleadings because it is referred to in the plaintiff's complaint and is central to his claim. See Venture Assocs. Corp. v. Zenith Data Sys. Corp. , 987 F.2d 429, 431-32 (7th Cir. 1993). The provision defendant relies upon can be found in an ...


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