JAN R. JURDEN, President Judge.
Leslie L. Myers, Naomi J. Manalo, and Oliver A. Manalo (and others similarly situated) ("Plaintiffs") seek a declaration that Defendant Travelers Commercial Insurance Company ("Travelers") has acted improperly and in violation of Delaware law by adopting a practice under 21 Del. C. § 2118B whereby it unlawfully delays processing, payment, and denial of claims for Personal Injury Protection ("PIP"). Plaintiffs also seek a declaration that this practice constitutes a repudiation of the contractual obligations owed by Travelers to its Delaware automobile policyholders.
Travelers has filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint Pursuant to Superior Court Civil Rule 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Travelers argues that Plaintiffs lack standing to bring the lawsuit because they have failed to plead any injury in fact and, in the absence of any personalized harm, Plaintiffs' claim for declaratory relief does not present a live case or controversy that is ripe for adjudication.
Travelers is a prolific underwriter of automobile insurance in Delaware, including first-party medical benefits for persons injured while driving or occupying motor vehicles.
21 Del. C. § 2118B governs the processing and payment of insurance benefits for personal injury protection.
Plaintiffs allege that Travelers has improperly "adopt[ed] a practice whereby it fails and refuses to either (a) reach a coverage determination on its insured's PIP claims, or (b) communicate such a determination to its insured, within the statutorily-required 30-day period under 21 Del. C. § 2118B."
Plaintiffs seek a declaration that Travelers improperly exempts itself from the statutory 30-day period by routinely withholding coverage determinations pending results of independent medical examinations conducted only after the 30-day deadline has passed.
III. PARTIES' CONTENTIONS
Travelers argues that Plaintiffs' Complaint must be dismissed: (1) Plaintiffs allege no injury in fact because they have not demonstrated that Travelers engaged in this allegedly unlawful practice with regard to them;
In opposition, Plaintiffs assert that "a litigant seeking declaratory relief need not have suffered actual harm . . . [r]ather it is enough that one party allege an invasion, erosion or deprivation of legal
Plaintiffs also argue that their claims are ripe for adjudication because: (1) Plaintiffs paid premiums for the benefit of their bargain and they have a legitimate interest in a prompt resolution of the dispute; (2) if the dispute remains unresolved, Plaintiffs will face continued uncertainty regarding the nature and extent of the insurance protection they purchased; (3) absent judicial intervention, future developments will do nothing to resolve or better define the dispute; (4) the adjudication of the class action lawsuit will conserve judicial resources; and (5) Delaware's public policy for speed, particularly, its PIP statutes favor a finding for ripeness.
Additionally, Plaintiffs maintain that "Travelers' practice of failing and refusing to comply with section 2118B's 30-day requirement constitutes a repudiation of the contractual obligations owed by Travelers' to its Delaware auto policyholders."
IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court assumes that all well-pled facts in a complaint are true when considering a Motion to Dismiss under Superior Court Rule 12(b)(6).
Jurisdiction to award declaratory relief exists only if an "actual controversy" exists between the parties.
Travelers contends that the ripeness requirement is not met.
In determining whether a case is ripe for judicial review, the Court must undertake "a common sense assessment of whether the interests of the party seeking immediate relief outweigh the concerns of the court in postponing review until the question arises in some more concrete and final form"
Although Plaintiffs need not have suffered actual harm, "an actual controversy must exist so that judicial resources are not wasted on hypothetical disputes or on situations in which a judicial declaration will not end the dispute between the parties."
In reality, Plaintiffs seek nothing more than a declaration reprimanding Travelers for allegedly adopting this practice. This controversy, so framed, amounts to request for an advisory opinion that is not ripe for adjudication.
Moreover, "[u]nder Delaware law, repudiation is an outright refusal by a party to perform a contract or its conditions entitling the other contracting party to treat the contract as rescinded."
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant Travelers Commercial Insurance Company's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint is