United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. Mariani United States District Judge.
a homeowner's insurance action arising from Defendant
Allstate Insurance Company's refusal to pay for property
damages sustained in Plaintiff's home. Plaintiff alleges
that she bought an insurance policy from Allstate on her home
for "property damages to the dwelling including physical
injury or destruction of tangible property." Doc. 1-1
¶ 11. The Complaint includes two causes of action
against Defendant: breach of contract due to Defendant's
denial of coverage and bad faith on the part of Defendant in
its evaluation of the claim.
removed this case to federal court on diversity grounds. Doc.
1. It then filed a motion for summary judgment on October 10,
2016. Doc. 6. On November 1, 2017, Defendant filed a
"supplemental motion for summary judgment, " which
superseded its previous motion for summary judgment. Docs.
33, 42. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's
supplemental motion for summary judgment will be
Statement of Undisputed Facts
Supplemental Motion for Summary Judgment did not include a
separate Statement of Material Facts pursuant to Local Rule
56.1. However, the motion contained 145 paragraphs of factual
assertions and legal arguments. Doc. 33. Plaintiff has
submitted "Answers to [the] Supplemental Motion for
Summary Judgment Fifed by Defendant" responding to each
of the paragraphs. Doc. 35. The Court therefore construes the
factual assertions in Defendant's Motion as a Statement
of Material Facts, and Plaintiffs "Answers to the
Supplemental Motion" as Plaintiff's Answer to the
Statement of Material Facts. The following facts are not
reasonably in dispute except as noted.
alleges that on or about December 27, 2015, her "home
was involved in in an incident that resulted in significant
loss of property, personal property damage, damage to her
property, loss of use and repair costs, all of which are
believed covered under the aforementioned policy" and
that Allstate "failed or refused to pay for
[Plaintiff's] coverage and losses." Doc. 1-1
¶¶ 12, 15. The Complaint also alleges that
"[c]ontrary to [Defendant's] claims, [Plaintiffs]
damages were not caused by a back up of water or sewer
through her drains nor was there an overflow of any sump
pump." Id. ¶ 18. However, the Complaint
does not specify what the actual cause of Plaintiff's
damages was. In its motion,, Defendant claims that
Plaintiff's loss resulted from "sewage water on the
floor of the basement of her secondary residence at 109 S.
Shore Drive, Sunrise Lake, Milford, PA." Doc. 33 ¶
7. Defendant further claims that Plaintiffs individually
owned sewage system is "attached to a second,
communally-shared underground system of pipes and tanks,
" such that Plaintiffs sewage waste passes through her
individual system and into the community system. Id.
¶¶ 8-9. While Plaintiff "denies" these
assertions in her Answer to the Statement of Facts, she
confirms that she "went into the basement steps and
stepped into 8 to 10 inches of smelling water" and that
her "home is connected to community sewer
system1 which has holding beds[, ] one of which is
across the street from [her] home." Doc. 35 ¶¶
7, 8. Both Defendant and Plaintiff cite to the same expert
reports in support of these assertions.
to these expert reports, the sewage overflow into Plaintiffs
home was due to the fact that "there were significant
deficiencies within the community sewage system." Doc.
35-3 (November 13, 2017 Oram Report) at 1. Because "the
community sewage system 'shut down'; closed,
'valve turned' or [was] otherwise not operational,
[it] caused pressure to build up in the community collection
system." Id. at 2. According to the reports:
The pressure built-up within the sewerage collection system
for Section 9 [of the community system] and the sudden
release of this pressure is the explosion that caused the
'Fernco' coupling to be blown-off the sewer piping
for 109 S. Shore Drive [i.e. Plaintiffs residence]. After
this explosion occurred, the sewage from the community
sewerage system was redirected to 109 S. Shore Drive. The
sewage was pumped or flowed into the on-site tanks and
ultimately over-filled the tanks at 109 S. Shore Drive. The
sewage was pumped or flowed into the on-site tanks and
ultimately overflowed the tanks and flowed into the lake and
simultaneously entered the home at 109 S. Shore Drive...The
water entering the home was not groundwater, but would
properly be described as sewage.
Id. at 3. See also Doc. 35-2 at 2
(September 27, 2017 Oram Report, stating the same). The
report then concluded:
Therefore, the source of the sewage water and cause of the
damage was the mechanic explosion that ultimately occurred
within the community sewage collection system and not related
to any actions by Mrs, Sanko.
id. at 4. According to Plaintiffs insurance policy
with Defendant, the validity of which is undisputed,
Defendant's coverage contains numerous exclusion
provisions. The relevant provision in this case pertains to
water damage (the "water damage clause"):
We do not cover loss to the property described in
Coverage A-Dwelling Protection or Coverage B-Other Structures
Protection consisting of or caused by:
1. Flood, including, but not limited to, surface water,
waves, tidal water or overflow of any body of water, or spray
from any of these, whether or not driven by wind.
2. Water or any other substance that backs up through sewers
3. Water or any other substance that overflows from a sump
pump, sump pump well or other system designed for the removal
of subsurface water which is drained from a foundation area
of a structure.
4. Water or any other substance on or below the surface of
the ground, regardless of Its source. This includes
water or any other substance which exerts pressure on, or
flows, seeps, or leaks ...