Yesterday, in the In re Hurricane Sandy Cases, Civil Action No.: 1:14-mc-00041-CLP-GRB-RER, a committee of magistrates in the Eastern District of New York recommended that the district judges presiding over more than 150 lawsuits against insurance companies arising from Hurricane Sandy dismiss numerous state law causes of action and damages claims. The magistrates, who have been appointed to manage more than 1,000 civil actions arising from the hurricane, based their recommendation on prior rulings in Sandy-related cases that certain state law claims and types of damages are not cognizable under New York law. On February 21, 2014, the magistrates directed plaintiffs to voluntarily dismiss claims or damages not recognized by New York law, or submit letters to the Court explaining the legal basis for continuing to pursue such claims. Those plaintiffs who did not respond to the Court’s directive are now subject to the committee’s June 5th Report and Recommendation.
The committee’s recommendation is aimed at avoiding “wasteful and unnecessary” motion practice before the District Court in each of the individual Sandy-related cases, and to resolve claims that are not cognizable under New York law. Plaintiffs have 14 days from receipt of the Report and Recommendation to file objections with the Court or they will be deemed to have waived their right of appeal.
Among the state law claims to be dismissed are: (i) fraudulent misrepresentation and inducement – on the ground that plaintiffs have failed to allege the necessary elements of a legal duty owed by the insurer separate from its duty to perform under the policy and entitlement to special damages; (ii) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing – on the ground that New York courts do not recognize a separate cause of action for breach of the implied covenant when a breach of contract claim is also pled on the same facts; (iii) bad faith denial of insurance coverage – on the ground that plaintiffs have not alleged conduct actionable as a tort, independent of the underlying insurance contract; and (iv) claims under Section 349 and 350 of New York General Business Law – on the ground that plaintiffs have not alleged injury independent of loss caused by an alleged breach of contract.
The committee also recommended the dismissal of demands for punitive damages, because plaintiffs have not identified that the insurers’ conduct was actionable as an independent tort, and any claims for attorney’s fees, which are not recoverable in actions against insurers to settle rights under a policy.