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Nationwide Property and Casualty Insurance Co. v. Mattis

United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

May 6, 2014

NATIONWIDE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY
v.
KAREN MATTIS, et al.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WILLIAM DITTER, JR., J.

In this case, the plaintiff, Nationwide Property and Casualty Insurance Company (“Nationwide”) seeks a declaratory judgment defining its obligations under a homeowner’s insurance policy issued to the defendants, Karen and B. Robert Mattis, and their son, Robert Mattis. The Mattis family has filed a claim for significant damages to their home caused by an overflowing sink.

At the conclusion of discovery, Nationwide filed this motion for summary judgment claiming it has no duty to cover this damage or indemnify the Mattis family as a matter of law because the family failed to notify Nationwide of the loss in a timely manner as required by the insurance agreement. Nationwide contends further that, as the result of the delay in notice, it was unable to view the property in its damaged condition, and therefore were unable to determine the validity of the claim or otherwise ascertain what damage was attributable to the flooding and what might be excluded from coverage. The Mattis family contend they complied with the notice provision of the insurance contract and that summary judgment cannot be granted because there are material facts at issue that must be resolved in order to determine Nationwide’s obligations under the insurance policy. For the reasons that follow, this motion is denied.

1. Factual Background[1]

The Mattis family purchased a homeowner’s insurance policy for their property located at 30 Deborah Road, Richboro, Pennsylvania, on September 21, 2011. The family has owned and lived in this home since 1975. At some point during the night of November 18, 2011, B. Robert Mattis, who suffers from memory loss, got up from bed and turned on the kitchen faucet. He did not turn off the faucet before returning to bed. As a result, the water ran until 7:00 a.m., causing the sink to overflow[2] and flood the entire first floor of the home. The family asserts the water was running for a maximum of eight hours.

Initially, Robert Mattis attempted to dry the home using a Shop Vac. Soon thereafter, he contacted his childhood friend, Mike Johnson, who owns H.C. Site Construction, Inc. for help. Johnson viewed the damage and recommended the family contact Alliance Adjustment Group, a public adjuster.

On November 21, 2011, the family hired Alliance to represent them in this claim and signed a 30% contingency fee agreement with Alliance. Alliance inspected the home on multiple occasions, and took photographs of the damage prior to completion of the mitigation, repair and/or replacement work. The record includes photographs taken by Alliance on its initial, November 21 inspection. The photographs show that remediation had not been completed: drywall was not removed, carpet was not removed, personal property was still in the house and professional drying equipment had not been set up.

The remediation work was invoiced on November 29, 2011, and included the following:

• removing furniture, appliances, and other personal property from the home and placing same outside;
• removing all carpet and vinyl flooring from the first floor;
• removing all kitchen base cabinets;
• removing the downstairs’ powder room vanity and toilet;
• removing 4' of drywall throughout the first floor ...

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