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Keys v. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

February 7, 2017

VALERIE KEYS et al.
v.
ALLSTATE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY

          MEMORANDUM

          O'NEILL, J.

         This case arises out of defendant Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company's denial of coverage to plaintiff Valerie Keys for water damage to her home that occurred on July 27, 2014.[1] I conducted a bench trial on January 25, 2017. Having considered the documentary evidence and testimony, I make the following findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a). Because I find that the damage to plaintiff's home was not covered by her insurance policy, I will enter judgment in favor of defendant with respect to plaintiff's claim for breach of contract.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         I. 2011 Roof Repair

         Plaintiff testified that around 2011 she replaced her roof for $2, 900. Tr. at 19:2-4 (Keys). She testified she did so because her neighbor had done the same and inspired her. Tr. at 18:7-19:11 (Keys). Plaintiff did not have receipts or invoices describing this work. Tr. at 47:2- 10 (Keys). Plaintiff did not testify to whether she determined she had a need to replace her roof before undertaking the replacement.

         II. Interior Damage

         On July 27, 2014, plaintiff returned from vacation to find that water had penetrated her home at 5638 North 18th Street in Philadelphia. Tr. at 12:1, 20:6-22:22 (Keys). On the top floor, the carpet, the curtains in the master bedroom, the towels in the bathroom and the clothes in the closet were all wet. Tr. at 22:2-22 (Keys). The paint on the ceilings in several rooms was peeling. Tr. at 22:2-4, 22:17-22 (Keys). Plaintiff, who had lived in that home for 37 years, had not discovered water damage like this before. Tr. at 22:23-23:3 (Keys).

         The day she discovered the water in her home, she also saw evidence of a recent storm in her neighborhood. Tr. at 26:5-11 (Keys). She saw that fallen branches from a large tree on her neighbor's property had been gathered into a pile her neighbor's yard. Tr. 24:16-20 (Keys). This tree is near plaintiff's property and the branches hang over her roof. Tr. at 23:20-22, 24:1- 20 (Keys).

         Plaintiff had insured her home with Allstate against “loss to the interior of a building structure, or covered property inside, caused by rain . . .” but only if “wind or hail first damages the roof or walls and the wind forces rain . . . through the damaged roof or wall.” Pl.'s Ex. 1 (Allstate Property Insurance Company Policy No. 928925341) at 8. This policy was in effect at the time of plaintiff's loss. Tr. at 43:13-15 (Weinberg); Def.'s Pretrial Mem. at ECF p. 5 (agreeing to stipulate to this fact); Pl.'s Pretrial Mem. at ECF p. 3 (same).

         III. First Roof Inspection

         Plaintiff contacted Allstate to seek coverage for her losses. Tr. at 23:12-13 (Keys). Allstate told her they would send someone to look at the damage to her property. Tr. at 26:13-14 (Keys). On September 9, 2014, plaintiff contracted with Metro Public Adjustment to represent her in her negotiation of her claim with Allstate. P-3 (Contract between Keys and Metro, Sept. 9, 2014); Tr. at 31:16-19, 34:13-20 (Keys) (describing the date of contract as September 2, 2014).

         Plaintiff testified that someone from Metro came to her home and put tarps on her roof. Tr. at 33:20-24 (Keys). She also testified that she does not remember who these people were or what date this occurred. Tr. at 50:17-24, 51:23-52:2, 52:18- 24 (Keys). She testified that, on this occasion, she observed a pile of branches on her lawn, some of which were very large, that the people who had installed the tarp on her roof had removed. Tr. at 39:3-40:10 (Keys).

         Allstate frequently contracts with RJE Home Remodeling Company to inspect homes when claims are filed. Tr. 64:12-13 (McNaney). RJE sent Michael McNaney, a claim inspector with over ten years of relevant experience and an HEG certification for evaluating storm damage to homes, to inspect plaintiff's home on September 23, 2014. Tr. at 62:16-63:2, 67:4-5 (McNaney). In the course of inspecting plaintiff's roof, McNaney found that between 10 and 20 percent of the roof was covered by tarps that were nailed to the roof. Tr. at 71:1-14 (McNaney); 102:1-8; 110:21-111:4. Concerned that removing the tarps would damage the roof, he looked under the corners of the tarps and otherwise inspected the rest of the visible roof. Tr. at 72:2-4 (McNaney).

         During this inspection, McNaney found no openings in the roof that were caused by wind or rain. Tr. at 75:9-77:10 (McNaney). He found “no evidence of wind lifting or any other storm related damage.” Pl.'s Ex. ...


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