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Cincinnati Insurance Co v. Devon International

February 15, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gene E.K. Pratter,j.


Plaintiff Cincinnati Insurance Co. ("Cincinnati") and Defendants Devon International, Inc., Devon IT, Inc., Devon International Group, and Devon International Industries, Inc. (collectively, "Devon") have filed cross-motions for summary judgment in this insurance coverage dispute. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Cincinnati's motion and deny Devon's motion.

I. Background

A. Procedural History

On September 20, 2011, Cincinnati filed its complaint in this action and sought a declaratory judgment defining its obligations to Devon. The parties differ over the extent to which Cincinnati must provide Devon with a defense and indemnification in litigation related to allegedly defective drywall that Devon imported from China into the United States. On April 18, 2012, Devon and Cincinnati submitted a joint stipulation of facts. The parties subsequently filed cross-motions for summary judgment arguing that they were entitled to prevail as a matter of law based on the stipulated facts before the Court.*fn1

B. Factual Background *fn2

Devon International, Devon International Industries, and Devon International Group were named insureds under Cincinnati Insurance Policy No. 365 83 38, which was in effect from November 20, 2008, until November 20, 2010. The policy was issued to Devon under a pair of one-year policy periods, and included commercial general liability coverage and commercial umbrella coverage. Under the policy's commercial general liability coverage form, Devon and Cincinnati agreed that the insurance policy would cover only bodily injury or property damage if

(1) "[t]he bodily injury or property damage is caused by an occurrence that takes place in the coverage territory" and (2) "[t]he bodily injury or property damage occurs during the policy period." The coverage form further defined "occurrence" as "an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions." Although Policy No. 365 83 38 included commercial umbrella coverage, such coverage only applied if an injury was caused by an occurrence that took place during the policy period.

On February 8, 2006, Devon International Trading (the predecessor of Devon International Industries), a sourcing agent for Chinese products, received an order from the North Pacific Group for Chinese drywall. Devon filled this order by purchasing drywall from Shandong, a Chinese drywall manufacturer, and then shipping that drywall to Florida. All the drywall that Devon imported came by way of a single order to Shandong and a single shipment from China to Pensacola, Florida. Some of the drywall was damaged en route to Florida, and one of Devon's insurers took possession of this damaged drywall and sold a portion of it at salvage.

In July 2006, North Pacific accepted delivery of some (but not all) of the undamaged drywall. Devon International Trading then sold the remaining undamaged drywall to other individuals and entities. By April 2009, Devon International Industries received a letter from counsel for North Pacific requesting a defense and indemnification for a claim arising from alleged defects in the imported drywall. Devon thus became aware that the imported drywall allegedly contained an improper amount of sulfur.

Devon subsequently faced what the parties describe as a "multitude of lawsuits" in various jurisdictions arising from the allegedly defective drywall. The plaintiffs in these suits generally allege that sulfur emitted by the drywall damaged their real and personal property, but they do not allege that the drywall was defective because it was damaged en route to Florida. Some of the plaintiffs in these lawsuits allege that they sustained damage between November 20, 2008, and November 20, 2009 as a result of the drywall imported by Devon International Trading, and others allege that they sustained damage between November 20, 2009, and November 20, 2010 due to this drywall.

II. Legal Standard

A court shall grant a motion for summary judgment "if the movant shows 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). An issue is "genuine" if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Kaucher v. Cnty. of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A factual dispute is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the case under governing law. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Under Rule 56, the Court must view the evidence presented in the motion in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. However, "[u]nsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions are insufficient to overcome a motion for summary judgment." Betts v. New Castle Youth Dev. Ctr., 621 F.3d 249, 252 (3d Cir. 2010).

The movant bears the initial responsibility for informing the Court of the basis for its motion for summary judgment and identifying those portions of the record that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on a particular issue, the moving party's initial burden can be met simply by "pointing out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325. After the moving party has met its initial burden, the non-moving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuinely disputed factual issue for trial by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . . , admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials" or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). ...

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