United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
BARCLAY SURRICK, J.
before the Court is the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
of Defendant State Farm Fire and Casualty Company. (ECF No.
13.) For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion will
lawsuit arises from an insurance coverage dispute. Plaintiff
Darryl Brodzinski seeks damages from Defendant State Farm
Fire and Casualty Company for Defendant's failure to pay
benefits to Plaintiff under a homeowner's insurance
policy. Plaintiff asserts claims against Defendant for breach
of contract and bad faith. In this Motion, Defendant seeks
summary judgment with respect to the bad faith claim.
resides at 59 Berrywood Lane, Dresher, Pennsylvania.
Plaintiff alleges that on March 9, 2016, water escaped from a
condensation line on an air conditioning unit, and caused
damage to his basement. (Compl. ¶ 5.) Plaintiffs home
was insured under a homeowner's insurance policy issued
by Defendant State Farm (the "Policy").
(Id. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff retained Hillis Adjustment
Agency to investigate his claim. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. A., ECF
No. 15.) Ralph Palaia, a public insurance adjuster from
Hillis, was assigned to handle the investigation and to
submit Plaintiffs claim to State Farm. (Id.) Palaia
prepared an estimate of the costs of repairs totaling $38,
307.97. (Estimate, Def's Mot. Ex. A.) Palaia submitted
the estimate to State Farm on March 30, 2016. (Id;
Def's Mot. ¶ 4.)
April 26, 2016, State Farm's claims adjuster, Rob Henry,
inspected Plaintiffs property. (State Farm Denial, Def's
Mot. Ex. B.) Palaia was present during the inspection.
(Id.) Henry discussed with Palaia his conclusion
that the damage was not covered by the Policy. After his
inspection, Henry sent Plaintiff a claim denial letter from
State Farm. In the denial, Henry stated that "the
basement water damage is not covered under the Homeowners
Policy." (Id.) He explained that he
"observed evidence of mold, rot, and deterioration
damage to the building materials." (Id.) Henry
stated that "Mr. Palaia explained the air conditioning
condensation line was likely [the] cause of the damage, and
that bleach was sprayed onto the carpet and walls in an
attempt to remove the mold." (Id.) Henry sited
sections of the policy that supported his conclusion that the
damage was not covered by the Policy. Specifically, he cited
the provision of the Policy that excludes coverage for: (1)
damage caused by "continuous or repeated seepage or
leakage of water" from an air conditioning system,
"which occurs over a period of time"; (2) water
damage, caused by flood, surface water, or water below the
surface of the ground, if concurrently caused by another
excludable event; and (3) damage caused by the use of
improper materials in the construction or repair of the
property, or improper maintenance. (Id.)
10, 2016, Palaia sent a letter to State Farm, requesting that
it reconsider the denial of Plaintiff s claim. (June 10, 2016
Hillis Ltr., Def's Mot. Ex. D.) Palaia stated in the
letter that "[t]he insured's policy covers
accidental discharge from a plumbing system and this loss was
caused by an air conditioning condensate line that leaked and
caused damage to his dwelling." (Id.) Palaia
also stated in the letter that this was a "one time
occurrence and not due to repeated seepage."
(Id.) According to Palaia, the air conditioner
condensate line leaked and caused water to be discharged into
the furnace. (Id.) He stated that the water damage
that is seen throughout the furnace and air filter supports
his conclusion. Palaia further stated that the water traveled
from the heater throughout the basement and caused damage to
the walls, the carpet, and to the contents in the rooms.
adjusters at State Farm reviewed Palaia's request to
reconsider the denial, and determined that Plaintiff
submitted no additional information that would alter their
decision to deny coverage. (Claims Notes SF019-SF020,
Def's Mot. Ex. B.) On July 27, 2016, State Farm advised
Palaia that there would be no change in their coverage
decision with regard to Plaintiffs claim. (Id.)
October 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the
Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. (Compl., Notice of
Removal Ex. A.) On November 11, 2016, State Farm removed the
case to this Court. The Complaint asserts two counts: (1)
breach of contract; and (2) bad faith. On March 5, 2017,
State Farm filed the instant Partial Motion for Summary
Judgment. On March 26, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Response to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), summary judgment is
proper "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." A dispute 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. Cty. of
Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., Ml U.S. 242, 248
(1986)). "[A] factual dispute is material only if it
might affect the outcome of the suit under governing
law." Id. The court must view the evidence in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Galena
v. Leone, 638 F.3d 186, 196 (3d Cir. 2011). However,
"unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere
suspicions" are insufficient to overcome a motion for
summary judgment. Schaar v. Lehigh Valley Health Servs.,
Inc., 732 F.Supp.2d 490, 493 (E.D. Pa. 2010) (citing
Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460
(3d Cir. 1989)).
the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the
moving party may identify an absence of a genuine issue of
material fact by showing the court that there is no evidence
in the record supporting the nonmoving party's case.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986);
UPMC Health Sys. v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 391 F.3d
497, 502 (3d Cir. 2004). If the moving party carries this
initial burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) ("A party asserting
that a fact... is genuinely disputed must support the
assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in
the record . . . ."); see also Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co., Ltd., v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
586 (1986) (noting that the nonmoving party "must do
more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt
as to the material facts" (citation omitted)).
"Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a
rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party,
there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'"
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted).