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Catherine M. Riga v. Allstate Automobile Insurance Co

February 22, 2012

CATHERINE M. RIGA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALLSTATE AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE CO., DEFENDANTS.



O RDER

This case comes before the Court on the following:

1. Application to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs by Plaintiff Catherine M. Riga (Doc. No. 13, filed Jan. 17, 2012);

2. The Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Karla R. Spaulding on Application to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs (Doc. No. 14, filed Jan. 23, 2012); and

3. Objection to the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Karla R. Spaulding by Plaintiff Catherine M. Riga (Doc. No. 15, filed Feb. 2, 2012.)

Background

Catherine M. Riga ("Plaintiff") initiated this action pursuant to Sections 624.155(1)(a), (1)(b)(1), Florida Statutes, by filing a Complaint against her insurer Allstate arising out of an automobile accident occurring on or about January 2, 2011. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 5, filed Dec. 19, 2011.) The other vehicle involved in the accident was driven by Karen Tillman and contained three passengers, Anthony Reed, Brittani Scott, and Alex Harris. (Id.) According to the Complaint, Officer Trooper Eldridge of the Florida Highway Patrol ("FHP") conducted the accident investigation. (Id. ¶ 7.) However, Plaintiff alleges that Officer Eldridge did not obtain a complete statement from Plaintiff for his report. (Id.) Plaintiff ultimately received a traffic citation from the accident for making an improper or unsafe u-turn. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 26.)

Anthony Reed, Karen Tillman, and Brittani Scott each filed separate demands with Allstate for $75,000 for injuries and medical expenses. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 6, 11, 16.) They subsequently released Plaintiff from "any and all claims, demands, damages . . . sustained . . . as a result" of the January 2, 2011 accident in consideration for differing sums of money paid by Allstate. (Doc. No. 1-1 at 9, 14, 19.)

Plaintiff argues that the accident report prepared by FHP and relied on by Allstate is inaccurate and does not illustrate what Riga reported to Officer Eldridge. (Id. ¶ 9.) As a result, Plaintiff claims that she has been "financially injured with significant increased insurance premiums . . . attributed to both fraud and the insurer's bad faith decision not to further examine and contest the fraud which is clearly illustrated on the Florida Highway Patrol . . . police investigation report." (Id. at 1.)

The same day that Plaintiff filed the Complaint, Plaintiff also filed an Application to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs. (Doc. No. 2, filed Dec. 19,2011.)Four days later, the Court entered an Order sua sponte dismissing the Complaint without prejudice for failing to allegea basis for federal jurisdiction. (Doc. No. 5, filed Dec. 23, 2011.) Magistrate Judge Karla R. Spaulding then issued a Report and Recommendation recommending that the Application to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs be denied and the case be dismissed without prejudice because the Complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. (Doc. No. 9 at 2, filed Jan. 5, 2012.)

On January 17, 2012, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint in response to Magistrate Judge Spaulding's Report and Recommendation. (Doc. No. 12.) In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff seeks to bring suit against Allstate under Section 624.155(1)(a)1., Florida Statutes, for violating Section 626.9541(1)(o)3.a., Florida Statutes. Section 626.9541(1)(o)3.a., defines the following as an unfair method of competition and an unfair or deceptive act or practice: [i]mposing or requesting an additional premium for a policy of motor vehicle liability, personal injury protection, medical payment, or collision insurance or any combination thereof or refusing to renew the policy solely because the insured was involved in a motor vehicle accident unless the insurer's file contains information from which the insurer in good faith determines that the insured was substantially at fault in the accident. § 626.9541(1)(o)3.a., Fla. Stat. (2011). Section 624.155(1)(a)1., Florida Statutes, allows a person to bring a civil action against an insurer for violating Section 626.9541(1)(i), (o), or (x). § 624.155(1)(a)1., Fla. Stat. (2005). Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that she has contacted Allstate on multiple occasions to explain that the accident report prepared by the FHP officer was fraudulent. (Doc. No. 12 at 2.) Plaintiff claims that, even after such efforts, Allstate has still increased her insurance premium and "never notified [her] of her right to potential reimbursement." (Id.) Moreover, Plaintiff alleges that she has never received an explanation from Allstate as to why it found her at fault, even though Plaintiff has allegedly requested one. (Id.)

Plaintiff then filed another Application to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs on January 17, 2012.*fn1 (Doc. No. 13.) On January 23, 2012, Magistrate Judge Spaulding issued a second Report and Recommendation recommending that the Court dismiss the case without prejudice and deny Plaintiff's second Application on the grounds that Plaintiff "has not alleged sufficient facts to show that this Court could exercise jurisdiction over her claims." (Doc. No. 14 at 2.) Specifically, Magistrate Judge Spaulding concluded that Plaintiff has not alleged (1) "that she is a citizen of a state different from the state in which Allstate is a citizen;" and (2) "that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000." (Doc. No. 14 at 2.) Plaintiff timely filed her objections to the second Report and Recommendation on February 2, 2012. (Doc. No. 15.)

Standard of Review

When a motion is delegated to a magistrate judge under Title 28, Section 636(b), of the United States Code, the magistrate judge is required to submit a report to the district court and parties. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). If a party makes a proper objection to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the district court must conduct a de novo review of the portions of the report to which the objection is made. FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b)(3); Macort v. Prem, Inc., 208 Fed. App'x 781, 783-84 (11th Cir. 2006) (quoting Heath v. Jones, 863 F.2d 815, 822 (11th Cir. 1989)). "It is critical that the objection be sufficiently specific and not a general objection to the report." Macort, 208 Fed. App'x at 784 (citing Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 7 (3d Cir. 1984)). The District Court may accept, reject, or modify in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b)(3); Macort, 208 Fed. App'xat 784 (quoting Heath, 863 F.2d at 822). When ...


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