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Nicholas and Kara Capriotti v. Allstate Property and

September 6, 2012

NICHOLAS AND KARA CAPRIOTTI
v.
ALLSTATE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY D/B/A ALLSTATE O'NEILL, J.



MEMORANDUM

Plaintiffs Nicholas and Kara Capriotti seek damages, attorney fees and other relief based on claims of breach of contract and bad faith against defendant Allstate. Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment. Also before me are plaintiffs' response to the motion and defendant's reply. For the reasons that follow I will grant in part and deny in part defendant's motion.

BACKGROUND

The Capriottis were insured under a homeowners insurance policy issued by Allstate. Dkt. No. 4-1 at ECF p. 2. The policy covered "sudden and accidental direct physical loss to property." Id. at ECF p. 9. The policy excluded coverage for loss caused by "seepage, meaning continuous or repeated seepage or leakage over a period of weeks, months, or years" from plumbing. Id. at ECF p. 16. The policy further excluded coverage for loss caused by "wear and tear, aging, marring, scratching, deterioration, inherent vice, or latent defect" or by "rust or other corrosion." Id.

The loss at issue in this case is water damage to the Capriottis' basement, which plaintiffs used every day. N. Capriotti Dep. at 19:25-20:3. Nicholas Capriotti testified that he discovered that the carpet in his basement was saturated with water and contacted Jamison Basement Waterproofing within "a couple days." Id. at 23:4-10. He could not recall the exact date he noticed his carpet was wet, id. at 18:24-19:2, but a Jamison record indicating a scheduled appointment with the Capriottis is dated September 1. Dkt. No. 19-8. Allstate's records show that plaintiffs subsequently notified Allstate of water damage to their home on September 26, 2011. Dkt. No. 17-13 at ECF p. 2. That same day, a plumber conducted an inspection and discovered a "break" in a pipe under plaintiffs' home. Dkt. No. 19-9.

Nicholas Capriotti also testified that he believed that water caused a portion of his basement wall to rot. While inspecting the wall he "poked [his] finger . . . to see what was the problem with the wall and [his] finger went through the wall." N. Capriotti Dep. at 87:4-6. Capriotti described the wall material as "some sort of masonry." Id. at 87:22-23. He could not recall the date he punctured the wall with his finger. Id. at 88:6-8.

Allstate claims adjuster Louis Mincarelli handled plaintiffs' claim. His claim notes show that on September 26, before he had inspected plaintiffs' home, he wrote that a sewer line under plaintiffs home broke "and has been gradually leaking overtime [sic]." Dkt. No. 19-10 at ECF p.

1. Mincarelli subsequently inspected plaintiffs' home on October 10. Id. at ECF p. 5. Nicholas Capriotti testified that between September 26 and October 10 there was "continuous damage" to his home. N. Capriotti Dep. at 75:5. Mincarelli's inspection notes state that "the walls show damage from long term deterioration, the carpet tack slips are black and show signs of rot." Dkt. No. 19-10 at ECF p. 5. At his deposition Mincarelli admitted that although he personally inspected the damage, he did not personally inspect the cause of the leak and instead relied on plumbers' reports. Mincarelli Dep. at 29:19-30:1 He could not pinpoint exactly how long water had been leaking from the pipe, but he testified that "the evidence shows that it was more than one week, more than two weeks, probably more than a few months." Id. at 25:4-7. Mincarelli based his conclusion on the rot in plaintiffs' basement wall and the discoloration in their carpet tack strips. Id. at 25:14-20. Ultimately, Allstate denied plaintiffs' claim on the grounds that plaintiffs' loss was not "sudden." Dkt. No. 17-3 at ECF p. 17. Allstate further concluded that the policy exclusions for "seepage," "wear and tear" and "rust or other corrosion" applied. Id. at pp. 17-18.

The Capriottis, however, contend that the damage was caused by a sudden break in the pipe and they now bring two claims based on defendant's denial of coverage. First, plaintiffs contend that the "actions and/or omissions of Defendant constitutes [sic] bad faith" pursuant to 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 8371. Am. Compl. ¶ 24. Second, plaintiffs aver that Allstate breached their contract. Id. ¶ 29.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment will be granted "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. If the movant sustains its burden, the non-movant must set forth facts demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

A fact is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the case under governing law. Id.

To establish "that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed," a party must:

(A) cit[e] to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or

(B) show[ ] that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce ...


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