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.

Windows v. Erie Insurance Exchange

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

May 1, 2017

HOWARD WINDOWS, JR. AND ELEANOR WINDOWS Appellees
v.
ERIE INSURANCE EXCHANGE Appellant

         Appeal from the Judgment Entered February 24, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Civil Division at No(s): GD-13-007822

          BEFORE: DUBOW, J., MOULTON, J., and MUSMANNO, J.

          OPINION

          MOULTON, J.

         Erie Insurance Exchange ("Erie") appeals from the February 24, 2016 judgment entered in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in favor of Howard Windows, Jr. and Eleanor Windows ("Homeowners"). We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         This matter arises from Erie's denial of an insurance claim made by the Homeowners following the infiltration of raw sewage into their home in May 2012. Erie denied the claim, and on May 2, 2013, the Homeowners filed a complaint, alleging that Erie breached its policy. On March 9, 2015, Erie filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the policy's "general exclusion for water damage unambiguously excludes coverage for the Homeowners' losses because the back up of raw sewage and water through the Warner Alley sewer system and the drain in the Homeowners' basement contributed to their losses." Erie's Mot. for S.J., at ¶ 25.[1]

         On June 16, 2015, the Honorable Paul F. Lutty, Jr. denied the motion in a one-line order. Before trial, Erie presented a motion in limine, arguing that the law of the case did not apply and that Erie should not be precluded from presenting evidence of its coverage defense, i.e., that the insurance policy did not cover the Homeowners' claims based on the water-damage exclusion. The trial judge, the Honorable Michael E. McCarthy, denied the motion and ruled that Judge Lutty's order "operat[ed] as at least for that limited purpose the law as to the case as to whether Exclusion 2B applies, that is the water damage, " N.T., 11/30/15, at 9, and "defer[red] to Judge Lutty's determination that exclusion 2(b) of the policy could not be construed to preclude plaintiffs' claim, " Opinion, 5/9/16, at 3 ("1925(a) Op."). The case proceeded to trial, and on December 2, 2015, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Homeowners and awarded $75, 073.56 in damages.

         On December 9, 2015, Erie filed a post-trial motion seeking a new trial, arguing that the trial court erred in concluding that the denial of Erie's summary judgment motion had established the law of the case, thereby denying Erie a trial on whether insurance coverage for the Homeowners' losses existed and whether the water-damage exclusion applied. On January 27, 2016, the trial court denied Erie's motion. On February 24, 2016, the trial court entered judgment in the Homeowners' favor. On March 8, 2016, Erie filed a timely notice of appeal.

Erie raises the following issues on appeal:
1. Whether the Honorable Paul F. Lutty, Jr. abused his discretion or committed an error of law in denying Erie's Motion for Summary Judgment where the undisputed material facts established that water or sewage that backed up through sewers or drains caused or contributed to the [Homeowners'] losses such that these losses were excluded from coverage under the [Homeowners'] insurance policy's exclusion of losses caused by "water damage."
2. Whether the Honorable Michael E. McCarthy abused his discretion or committed an error of law in denying Erie's Motion for Post-Trial Relief where he held that Judge Lutty's summary denial of Erie's motion for Summary Judgment without opinion constituted the law of the case as to the application of the policy's exclusion for "water damage, " and therefore held, as a matter of law and without the benefit of trial or fact-finding by a jury, that the policy's exclusion for "water damage" did not exclude any of the [Homeowners'] losses.

Erie's Br. at 3.

         We first address Erie's challenge to Judge Lutty's denial of its motion for summary judgment.

When reviewing a trial court's grant of summary judgment, our standard and scope of review are as follows:
[O]ur scope of review is plenary, and our standard of review is the same as that applied by the trial court. Our Supreme Court has stated the applicable standard of review as follows: [A]n appellate court may reverse the entry of a summary judgment only where it finds that the lower court erred in concluding that the matter presented no genuine issue as to any material fact and that it is clear that the moving party was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. In making this assessment, we view the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party. As our inquiry involves solely questions of law, our review is de novo.
Thus, our responsibility as an appellate court is to determine whether the record either establishes that the material facts are undisputed or contains insufficient evidence of facts to make out a prima facie cause of action, such that there is no issue to be decided by the fact-finder. If there is evidence that would allow a fact-finder to render ...

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.