Fleming v. Allstate Ins. Co.

Decision Date10 December 1984
Citation106 A.D.2d 426,482 N.Y.S.2d 519
PartiesMichael FLEMING, et al., Respondents-Appellants, v. ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant-Respondent.
CourtNew York Supreme Court — Appellate Division

Rivkin, Leff, Sherman & Radler, Garden City (Nancy K. Eisner and Frank L. Amoroso, Garden City, of counsel), for appellant-respondent.

Regan & Regan, South Setauket (Edward J. Regan, of counsel), for respondents-appellants.

Before MANGANO, J.P., and GIBBONS, O'CONNOR and BROWN, JJ.

MEMORANDUM BY THE COURT.

In an action to recover damages based upon a breach of an insurance contract, defendant appeals from an order of the Supreme Court, Suffolk County, dated August 22, 1983, which denied its motion to dismiss the complaint. (Plaintiffs' cross appeal from said order has been abandoned.)

Order modified, on the law, by adding thereto a provision granting defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint solely with respect to plaintiffs' requests for (1) compensatory damages for emotional distress and (2) punitive damages. As so modified, order affirmed without costs or disbursements.

Upon a motion to dismiss a complaint, a plaintiff must be given the benefit of every possible favorable inference (see Rovello v. Orofino Realty Co., 40 N.Y.2d 633, 634, 389 N.Y.S.2d 314, 357 N.E.2d 970 and the complaint should not be dismissed if "upon examination of the four corners of the pleading * * * the factual allegations contained therein indicate the existence of a cause of action" (Melito v. Interboro-Mutual Ind. Ins. Co., 73 A.D.2d 819, 820, 423 N.Y.S.2d 742; see, also, Guggenheimer v. Ginzburg, 43 N.Y.2d 268, 275, 401 N.Y.S.2d 182, 372 N.E.2d 17; Reifenstein v. Allstate Ins. Co., 92 A.D.2d 715, 461 N.Y.S.2d 104). So viewed, we hold that the instant complaint alleges a cause of action for breach of contract, and, if plaintiffs ultimately prevail, they may recover consequential damages resulting from said breach.

However, plaintiffs' requests for (1) damages for emotional distress and (2) punitive damages, must be stricken from the complaint. It is beyond cavil that a plaintiff cannot, in an action for breach of contract, recover damages for emotional distress (Wehringer v. Standard Security Life Ins. Co. of N.Y., 57 N.Y.2d 757, 454 N.Y.S.2d 984, 440 N.E.2d 1331). With respect to the issue of punitive damages, it has been consistently held that plaintiffs may not recover such damages without submitting factual allegations that defendant, in its dealings with the general public, engaged in a fraudulent scheme which demonstrates "such wanton dishonesty as to imply a criminal indifference to civil obligations" (Walker v. Sheldon, 10 N.Y.2d 401, 405, 223 N.Y.S.2d 488, 179 N.E.2d 497; Granato v. Allstate Ins. Co., 70 A.D.2d 948, 949, 418 N.Y.S.2d 108, mot. for lv. to app. den. 48 N.Y.2d 610, 425 N.Y.S.2d 1025, 401 N.E.2d 221; see, also, Reifenstein v. Allstate Ins. Co., 92 A.D.2d 715, 461 N.Y.S.2d 104, supra; Royal Globe Ins. Co. v. Chock Full O'Nuts Corp., 86 A.D.2d 315, 318-319, 449 N.Y.S.2d 740). "Allegations of breach of an insurance contract, even a breach...

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