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Apodaca v. Young American Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

November 19, 2019

YVONNE APODACA, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,



         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Counts IV and V of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint and all Claims Against Defendants EP Loya Group, LP and Loya Insurance Company, filed April 5, 2019. (Doc. 33.)

         In this putative class action, Ms. Apodaca (Plaintiff) alleges that Defendants misrepresented the terms of her underinsured motorist coverage. Defendants argue that Plaintiff does not have standing to bring suit against either Loya Insurance Company (Loya) or EP Loya Group, LP (EP Loya), and that she has otherwise failed to state a claim as to Counts IV and V. (Doc. 33.) For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS IN PART Defendants' Motion and DISMISSES all claims against Loya and EP Loya. However, the remaining requests for relief by Defendant Young America Insurance Company (Young America) are DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Finally, the Court sua sponte STAYS this case pending an answer by the New Mexico Supreme Court to the question certified in Crutcher v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., 1:18-cv-412 JCH/LF (D.N.M.).

         I. Background

         Plaintiff sustained bodily injuries and damages to her car in an automobile accident with Mr. Ben Shriver. (Doc. 30 ¶ 17.) Mr. Shriver was at fault for the accident. (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff was covered by an auto insurance policy issued by Young America. (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff carried insurance at New Mexico's minimum amounts, which provide bodily injury coverage of $25, 000 per person and $50, 000 per accident. (Id. ¶¶ 26, 27, 32.) She also purchased uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage in the same amounts. (Id. ¶ 27.)

         Plaintiff received the full amount ($25, 000) of liability coverage carried by Mr. Shriver. (Id. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff filed a claim with Young America for coverage under her own UM/UIM policy, but Young America denied her underinsured motorist claim. (Id. ¶ 43.) Young America stated that it was entitled to a full offset of Mr. Shriver's policy payments. (Id. ¶ 47.) Plaintiff alleges that Young America told her she would receive a benefit from her underinsured motorist coverage, but in fact her underinsured coverage was useless or illusory. (Id. ¶¶ 36, 44, 94.)

         Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 14.) The Court granted the motion in part, dismissing all claims against EP Loya and Loya, and Counts IV and V against Young America. (Doc. 27.) However, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to amend her complaint. (Id. at 17.) Plaintiff timely filed a Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 30.) Defendants now argue that Plaintiff failed to cure the defects in her complaint and ask the Court to dismiss Counts IV and V against Young America and all claims against EP Loya and Loya.

         II. Legal Standard

         The parties proceed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court “must accept all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and must construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” In re Gold Res. Corp. Sec. Litig., 776 F.3d 1103, 1108 (10th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). “To survive a motion to dismiss, ” the complaint does not need to contain “detailed factual allegations, ” but it “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007)). “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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Plausibility does not equate to probability, but there must be “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         III. Analysis

         A. Plaintiff fails to state a claim against Loya and EP Loya.

         Defendants argue that Plaintiff lacks standing to sue Loya and EP Loya. Plaintiff argues that she has standing to sue because Defendants are involved in a joint venture.

         “In New Mexico, a party may be liable for the negligence of its joint venturers.” MS through Harris v. E. N.M. Mental Retardation Servs., No. CIV 13-628 RB-GBW, 2015 WL 13662789, at *15 (D.N.M. June 16, 2015) (citing Schall v. Mondragon, 393 P.2d 457, 460 (N.M. 1964)).

A joint venture exists when two or more parties (1) enter into an agreement, (2) to combine their money, property or time in the conduct of some particular business deal, (3) agree to share in the profits and losses of the venture jointly, and (4) have the right of mutual ...

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