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Sanko v. Allstate Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 18, 2018

AUDREY SANKO Plaintiff,
v.
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Robert D. Mariani United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         This is 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.

         Defendant 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 On November 1, 2017, Defendant filed a "supplemental motion for summary judgment, " which superseded its previous motion for summary judgment.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 granted.[1]

         II. Statement of Undisputed Facts

         Defendant's 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.

         Plaintiff 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.

         According 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 or drains.
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 ...

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