United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
TIMOTHY R. RICE, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Jocelyn Desvarieux and Frantz Jean claim that Defendant
Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance Company breached
their home insurance policy (“the Policy”) by
denying coverage for damage caused after the front wall of
Plaintiffs' home collapsed. See Am. Compl. (doc.
5). Allstate seeks summary judgment, asserting it properly
denied coverage because the collapse was not covered by the
Policy. See S.J. Mot. (doc. 19). Because there are
genuine issues of material fact as to whether the Policy
covered the collapse, I deny Allstate's motion.
judgment is appropriate where “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). A
genuine dispute of material facts exists when “factual
issues . . . may reasonably be resolved in favor of either
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 250 (1986). I must view the facts and draw
inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party. See Burton v. Teleflex Inc., 707 F.3d 417,
425 (3d Cir. 2013). I also “may not make credibility
determinations or engage in any weighing of evidence.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.
Pennsylvania law, which applies here, the interpretation of
an insurance policy generally involves a question of law.
See S.J. Mot., Ex. B, Policy at 5 (Pennsylvania law
applies to Policy); Am. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Murray,
658 F.3d 311, 320 (3d Cir. 2011); Gardner v. State Farm
Fire & Cas. Co., 544 F.3d 553, 558 (3d Cir. 2008). I
must determine the parties' intent as manifested by the
terms of the Policy. Murray, 658 F.3d at 320. I
shall read the Policy as a whole and attempt to give effect
to all of its provisions. Id. When the language is
clear and unambiguous, I must give effect to the plain
meaning of the terms. Id.; Gardner, 544
F.3d at 558. If the language is ambiguous, the parties'
intent must be determined by the finder of fact and other
evidence is admissible to determine that intent. See
Windows v. Erie Ins. Co., 161 A.3d 953, 957-58 (Pa.
Super. 2017). Language is ambiguous if “it is
reasonably susceptible of different constructions and capable
of being understood in more than one sense.”
Gardner, 544 F.3d at 558. Language is not ambiguous
merely because the parties do not agree on the proper
construction or if one of the interpretations is
unreasonable. See Windows, 161 A.3d at 957.
Facts in Light Most Favorable to Plaintiffs
morning of May 3, 2013, Desvarieux was sitting in the kitchen
of her two-story Philadelphia row home (“Home”)
when she heard a cracking noise followed by a boom in the
front room. See Resp. (doc. 20), Ex. A, 11/10/2017
Devarieux Dep. at 6, 16-17, 21, 25-26. She walked toward the
noise, heard a second boom, and was covered with dust.
See id. at 27. When Desvarieux opened her eyes, she
saw her Home's front wall had collapsed. See id.
notified Allstate of the collapse and submitted a claim
pursuant to the Policy. See id. at 27-28; S.J. Mot.
at ¶ 17, Resp. at ¶ 17. Allstate hired a structural
engineer, David Daniels, P.E., to determine the cause of the
collapse. S.J. Mot. at ¶ 18, Resp. at ¶ 18. On May
24, 2016, Daniels issued a report, in which he concluded
“with a reasonable degree of engineering certainty that
the stone front wall failure in the [Home] was sudden and
accidental.” Mot., Ex. C, 5/24/2016 Daniels Report at
5; see also S.J. Mot. at ¶ 22, Resp. at ¶
22. He also found that “[t]he evidence indicates it was
due to long term deterioration.” 5/24/2016 Daniels
Report at 5. Based on this determination and the Policy's
provisions regarding collapses, Allstate denied coverage.
See S.J. Mot., Ex. D, 6/1/2016 Allstate Letter;
see also S.J. Mot. at ¶ 27, Resp. at ¶ 27.
subsequently hired her own engineer, Charles N. Timbie, P.E.,
who provided a report about the cause of the collapse in
December 2016. See S.J. Mot., Ex. G, 12/2/2016
Timbie Report; S.J. Mot. at ¶ 53; Resp. at ¶ 53.
Timbie found: “There was no triggering event causing
the wall to collapse. The damage has been developing since
the building was constructed. The front wall was improperly
constructed in that the mortar did not have adequate strength
and the wall was not properly toothed into the side walls and
party wall or tied into the floor systems.” 12/2/2016
Timbie Report at 2.
2017, Timbie issued a second report after investigating a wet
soil condition that was discovered during the reconstruction
of the Home's front wall. See S.J. Mot, Ex. H,
6/21/2017 Timbie Report at 2. He explained: “[It] was
discovered that the soil pipe from the toilet [in the
basement bathroom] to the main in the basement floor had
significantly ruptured allowing the waste and storm water to
flow into the soil along the front wall. Cycles of saturation
and draining of the soil caused building subsidence. Removal
of the paneling in the basement revealed settlement of a
front portion of the party wall at the toilet room.”
Id. Timbie continued to conclude that the collapse
was the result of improper construction, but also found that
“[t]he ruptured sewer pipe was a significant
contributing factor in the settlement of the wall and the
wall collapse.” Id.
also arranged for Daniels to reinspect the Home to determine
whether the broken sewer pipe had contributed to the
collapse. See S.J. Mot. at ¶¶ 28-31, Resp.
at ¶¶ 28-31. In July 2017, Daniels found that
although photographs appeared to show a crack in a cast iron
pipe found under the basement floor, the crack was small and
would only allow a small amount of liquid to exit the pipe
when the basement bathroom was used. See S.J. Mot.,
Ex. F, 7/6/2017 Daniels Report at 3; see also S.J.
Mot. at ¶¶ 42-46, Resp. at ¶¶ 42-46.
Daniels concluded that “the additional inspection of
the property and the review of the numerous supplied
photographs did not provide any evidence which would change
[his] initial conclusion of the cause of the front wall
collapse.” See 7/6/21017 Daniels Report at 3.
As a result, Allstate continued to deny coverage.
See S.J. Mot. at ¶ 49, Resp. at ¶ 49.
sued Allstate for breach of contract and, during discovery,
Allstate deposed Timbie. See S.J. Mot. at
¶¶ 50, 52, Resp. ¶¶ 50, 52. Timbie
testified that he agreed with Daniels's findings that the
collapse was the result of long-term deterioration.
See S.J. Mot., Ex. I, 12/15/2017 Timbie Dep. at 29.
However, he also said that the deteriorated condition of the
Home was “aggravated by [the] broken pipe that was
discovered during construction.” Id. Timbie
explained water had been released through the cracked pipe
over a period of years and caused the front wall to settle.
Id. at 36-38. When asked if it was fair to say that
“the predominant cause of the [collapse was] long-term
deterioration and defective, original construction methods,
” Timbie testified: “Yeah, I can't give you a
percentage like 51 percent, 49 percent or anything like that,
but I would say that the predominant cause was defective
construction and deterioration of the wall.”
Id. at 40.
I of the Policy provides four types of property coverage: (1)
Coverage A - Dwelling Protection, which generally includes
coverage for the Home and attached structures; (2) Coverage B
- Other Structures Protection, which generally includes
coverage for separate structures identified in the Policy
Declaration page; (3) Coverage C - Personal Property
Protection, which generally includes personal property owned
or used by the insured person; and (4) “Additional
Protection, ” which sets forth 13 other specific types
of losses or expenses covered by the Policy. Policy at 1,
Additional Protection section states that the Policy covers