United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss Count II of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint for
Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 16). The motion is fully
briefed and ready for disposition.
case stems from a motor vehicle accident that occurred on
June 7, 2015, wherein Defendant's bus struck the rear of
Plaintiffs' Ford Explorer. On May 22, 2017, Plaintiffs
filed a Complaint in federal court against Defendant Bi-State
Development Agency of the Missouri-Illinois Metropolitan
District d/b/a/ Metro Transit ("Bi-State").
Plaintiffs later filed an Amended Complaint alleging bodily
injury and property damage arising from the accident.
Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that Bi-State was negligent
while operating the bus (Count I) and that punitive damages
are warranted for Bi-State's violation of the Missouri
improper claims practices under Section 375.1000 et
seq. of the Missouri Revised Statutes (Count II).
(Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶¶25-37)
regard to motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint
must be dismissed if it fails to plead "enough facts to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007) (abrogating the "no set of facts" standard
set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46
(1957)). While the Supreme Court cautioned that the holding
does not require a heightened fact pleading of specifics,
"a plaintiffs obligation to provide the
'grounds' of his ' entitle[ment] to relief
requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do." Id. at 555. In other words,
"[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level. . . ."
must liberally construe the complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff and accept the factual allegations
as true. Id.; see also Schaaf v. Residential
Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008)
(stating that in a motion to dismiss, courts accept as true
all factual allegations in the complaint); Eckert v.
Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008)
(explaining that courts should liberally construe the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff).
Further a court should not dismiss the complaint simply
because the court is doubtful that the plaintiff will be able
to prove all of the necessary factual allegations.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. However, "[w]here the
allegations show on the face of the complaint there is some
insuperable bar to relief, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is
appropriate." Benton v. Merrill Lynch &
Co., 524 F.3d 866, 870 (8th Cir. 2008) (citation
Motion to Dismiss, Bi-State argues that Count II should be
dismissed for failure to state a claim because the Missouri
statute upon which Plaintiffs rely does not allow for
punitive damages; does not provide a private right of action
for private individuals; applies only to insurers engaged in
the business of insurance; and applies only to claims made by
an insured against his insurer pursuant to a policy of
insurance. Bi-State asserts that because the statute cited by
Plaintiffs is not applicable to Plaintiffs' cause of
action, Count II should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In response, Plaintiffs
contend that Mo. Rev. Stat. § 375.1007, as referenced in
the Amended Complaint, is relevant only to establish "a
baseline for appropriate conduct of insurers in handling
claims, and as evidenced by the facts of this case,
Defendant's actions failed to meet these
guidelines." Bi-State responds that Mo. Rev. Stat.
§ 375.1007 does not establish a claim for punitive
damages and is not relevant to the present case.
outset, the Court notes, "'[t]here is no independent
cause of action for punitive damages under either federal or
Missouri law.'" Jackson v. Asphindh Constr.
Corp., No. 4:15CV00714 ERW, 2016 WL 4701589, at *3 (E.D.
Mo. Sept. 8, 2016) (quoting Jackson v. Wiersema Charter
Serv., Inc., No. 4:08CV00027 JCH, 2009 WL 1310064, at *3
(E.D. Mo. May 11, 2009) (internal quotation omitted)). Thus,
a punitive damages claim '"must be brought in
conjunction with a claim for actual damages.'"
Id. (quoting Misischia v. St. John's Mercy
Med. Or., 30 S.W.3d 848, 866 (Mo.Ct.App. 2000)).
instant case, Count II of the Amended Complaint raises a
claim under the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act, Mo.
Rev. Stat. § 375.1000 et seq. Plaintiffs
specifically allege, "Missouri Revised Statutes, Section
375.1007 provides that 'Any of the following acts by an
insurer, if committed in violation of section 375.1005,
constitutes improper claims practices . . . .'"
(Pls.' Am. Compl. ¶ 26, ECF No. 14) Plaintiffs then
list several acts that constitute an improper claims practice
set forth in § 375.1007. (Id.) Plaintiffs
assert that Bi-State's actions in investigating and
addressing their claims violate the statute, thus warranting
punitive damages. (Id. at ¶¶ 35-37)
II of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint alleges an underlying
cause of action under the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices
Act. However, the statute provides, "[n]othing in
sections 375.1000 to 375.1018 shall be construed to create or
imply a private cause of action for violation of sections
375.1000 to 375.1018." Mo. Rev. Stat. § 375.1000.
Indeed, as found by the Missouri Court of Appeals, "the
act plainly provides that enforcement is limited to the
Director of Insurance and sets forth the only available
penalties for violations which include a monetary penalty or
revocation of the insurer's license." Roller v.
Am. Modern Home Ins. Co., 484 S.W.3d 110, 118
(Mo.Ct.App. 2015) (citing Mo. Rev. Stat. §§
375.1009-1012). Further, "[t]he Act does not establish a
method for the waiver of the insurer's right to deny
coverage or any private enforcement." Id.
Court finds that dismissal of Count II of Plaintiffs'
Amended Complaint is appropriate in this case. First, the
Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act does not create a
private cause of action, and Plaintiffs are thus precluded
from relying on the statute as an underlying cause of action.
See Roller, 484 S.W.3d at 118 (rejecting
plaintiffs' assertion that they had a private right of
action in that the Act identified specific standards of
conduct that, if violated, caused the insurer to be in breach
of the contract and to forfeit its right to deny coverage).
Second, to the extent that Plaintiffs rely on the statute as
merely illustrative of Bi-State's allegedly wanton,
reckless, and intentional actions, Plaintiffs cannot bring an
independent cause of action for punitive damages. See
Jackson, 2016 WL 4701589, at *3. Therefore, the Court
dismisses Count II of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) because they are unable to state a
claim for relief that is plausible on its face.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see also Am. Modern
Home Ins. Co. v. Thomas, No. 4:16 CV 215 CDP, 2017 WL
2225204, at *1 (E.D. Mo. May 22, 2017) (dismissing claim for
a violation of Mo. Rev. Stat. § 375.1000 because
individual insurance policy holders could not bring a private
cause of action under the statute).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant's
Motion to Dismiss Count II of Plaintiffs' Amended
Complaint for Failure to State a Claim (ECF No. 16) is