Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

BROWN v. ZURICH-AMERICAN INSURANCE CO.

March 31, 2004.

ADAM BROWN, d/b/a ILIAD ANTIK, Plaintiff,
v.
ZURICH-AMERICAN INSURANCE CO., Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES KELLY, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff Adam Brown d/b/a Iliad Antik ("Plaintiff") seeking judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) that Defendant Zurich-American Insurance Company ("Defendant") must provide coverage for Plaintiff's loss pursuant to the terms of a 12-month all-risk insurance policy (the "Policy") issued by Defendant to Plaintiff. Plaintiff is in the business of selling antiques and other goods, and suffered a loss of its goods stored in a second floor workshop in Prague, Czech Republic as a result of water damage. Defendant denied Plaintiff's claim based on a "Territorial Limits" provision contained in the Policy that excluded coverage in "the former Iron Curtain countries." Plaintiff argues that the exclusionary provision does not apply in this matter because its loss occurred in the Czech Republic, a country that was born in 1993, after the fall of the Iron Curtain and, thus, it cannot be considered a former Iron Curtain country. Plaintiff also argues that, even if the Czech Republic can be considered a former Iron Curtain Page 2 country, judgment in favor of coverage must be rendered to avoid an absurd result. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff is in the business of selling antiques, fine arts and other goods from its principal location at 237 East 58th Street in New York City. Plaintiff specializes in antiques known as Biedermeier Furniture, which was popular more than 150 years ago in Austro-Hungary, specifically, in and around the City of Prague. Plaintiff obtains most of its inventory from residents living in and around Prague who possess such furniture in various states of disrepair. Plaintiff's employees gather this furniture in Prague and ship large parcels of it to their New York City showroom. In January 2002, Plaintiff leased a workshop and holding facility in Prague where it restores the furniture to museum quality before shipping the furniture to New York City.

  Previously, Plaintiff sought casualty insurance from his Pennsylvania insurance agent, the Robert J. McCallister Agency, Inc. ("McCallister"), to cover both consigned and purchased goods while in Plaintiff's custody and in transit. McCallister enlisted the New York broker, DeWitt Stern Group, Inc. ("DeWitt"), to obtain the coverage and, on or about December 26, 2001, Plaintiff was issued the Policy, No. 1M3501568-00, by Page 3 Defendant.

  The Policy provided coverage for up to one million dollars for goods damaged "[w]hile in the custody and control of the Insured or while carried by any member of the Insured's firm or in transit to or from or while at any conventions, shows or exhibitions and auctions worldwide." (Pl.'s Ex. C, Declarations Page ¶ 8.) The Policy also contained a form entitled "Antique and Fine Arts Dealers Wording," which set forth "Territorial Limits," including the following limitation:
The Property insured is covered while at the Insured premises and/or in transit and/or exhibition and/or otherwise anywhere in the world excluding the former Iron Curtain countries subject to the limits defined in Clause 4 below.
(Pl.'s Ex. D, Antique and Fine Arts Dealers Wording ¶ 3 (emphasis added).) The Policy does not contain any other provisions defining the phrase "former Iron Curtain countries" or listing the specific countries intended for inclusion in this phrase.

  On or about August 12, 2002, a one-in-five-hundred-year flood occurred in Prague, damaging approximately two million dollars worth of inventory on the second floor of Plaintiff's Prague workshop. Plaintiff timely submitted a claim to Defendant and, in a letter dated October 11, 2002, Defendant denied Plaintiff's claim based on the "former Iron Curtain countries" exclusion contained in the Policy.

  Plaintiff brought the instant action against Defendant in this Court seeking to recover for the loss of goods stored in the Page 4 second floor workshop in Prague, Czech Republic as a result of the water damage.*fn1 Plaintiff now moves for summary judgment that it should be entitled to coverage for its loss pursuant to the Policy issued by Defendant. Defendant responded, and Plaintiff replied thereto.

  II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

  Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c). In resolving a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56, the Court must determine whether "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The evidence of the nonmoving party is to be believed, and the district court must draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmovant's favor. Id. at 255. Credibility determinations, the weighing of the Page 5 evidence and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge. Id.

  Where the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if admissible, would be insufficient to carry the nonmovant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.

  Interpretation of an insurance policy is a question of law that a court may resolve on a motion for summary judgment. Reliance Ins. Co. v. Moessner, 121 F.3d 895, 900 (3d Cir. 1997); Harleysville Insurance Company v. Aetna Casualty and Surety Insurance Company, 795 A.2d 383, 385 (Pa. 2002). The parties do not dispute that Pennsylvania law governs this case.

  III. DISCUSSION

  Before addressing the merits of Plaintiff's arguments, we briefly turn to the history of the term, "Iron Curtain," which the parties do not dispute. Winston S. Churchill popularized the term "Iron Curtain" in a speech he gave at Westminster College in Page 6 Fulton, Missouri on March 5, 1946, after being conferred an honorary degree there. See Sinews of Peace (Iron Curtain) Speech published by The Churchill Centre available at http://winstonchurchill.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=429. Churchill introduced the term to describe the political, military and ideological divide between Western Europe and the Soviet Bloc*fn2 from approximately 1945 to 1990, which ideological border extended approximately 1,600 miles from ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.