United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
F. SAPORITO, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the court on the plaintiffs motion to
appoint an appraiser. (Doc. 20). The motion has been briefed
and is ripe for a decision. For the reasons set forth below,
we will grant the motion.
Statement of Facts
plaintiff commenced this action in the Court of Common Pleas
of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania on November 16, 2016. In
the complaint, the plaintiff asserts a claim for breach of
contract and statutory bad faith under 42 Pa. Const. Stat.
Ann. § 8371 for a fire loss that occurred on December
18, 2015, at its property located at 347 Main Street, Dickson
the defendants removed this case to this court on February
13, 2017. (Doc. 1). By stipulation, the parties agreed that
Liberty Mutual Insurance be dismissed as a defendant with
prejudice. (Doc. 9; Doc. 10).
complaint, the plaintiff alleges that, at the time of the
fire, the plaintiff was covered by a commercial property
insurance policy issued by the defendant, American Fire and
Casualty Co. ("American"), Policy No. BKA (16)
56074057. The policy provided for coverage limits of $850,
113 for replacement costs and $18, 360 for rental value. The
plaintiff alleges that it sustained damages in the amount of
$1, 420, 580.33. Despite the plaintiffs demand for payment of
the limits of the policy, American has paid the plaintiff the
sum of $110, 770.35.
insurance policy contains an appraisal provision which
provides, in part, that:
If we and you disagree on the value of the property or the
amount of loss, either may make written demand for an
appraisal of the loss. In this event, each party will select
a competent and impartial appraiser. The two appraisers will
select an umpire. If they cannot agree, either may request
that selection be made by a judge of the court having
jurisdiction. The appraisers will state separately the value
of the property and amount of loss. If they fail to agree,
they will submit their differences to the umpire. A decision
agreed to by any two will be binding.
(Doc. 26-5, at 27).
plaintiff alleges that it gave notice to American of its
intention to invoke this provision. American maintains that a
failure to pay the amount demanded by the plaintiff does not
trigger the appraisal provision in the policy. American
further argues that despite its requests for information
regarding the specifics of the alleged loss, the plaintiff
has failed to provide meaningful documentation to American to
allow it to determine whether a disagreement actually exists.
In response, the plaintiff maintains that it has exchanged
information with defense counsel.
March 8, 2018, following several telephone conferences with
counsel, the court stayed the action at counsel's
request. We lifted the stay on April 2, 2019. (Doc. 45). We
conducted a telephone conference with counsel on August 14,
2019, for the purpose of resolving a discovery dispute
wherein we ordered that the plaintiff shall produce invoices
and estimates for repairs to the premises on or before
September 4, 2019.
plaintiffs motion to appoint appraiser requests that we
appoint the appraiser on behalf of American so that the
appraisers may thereafter appoint the umpire and allow the
appraisal process to commence.
well-established law in Pennsylvania that "in order for
a case to be appropriate for appraisal, there are generally
two conditions that must be met: (1) the defendant has
admitted liability for the loss; and (2) there must be a
dispute only as to the dollar amount of the loss."
Ice City, Inc. v. Ins. Co. of N. Am.,314 A.2d 236,
240 (Pa. 1974); see also Banks v. Allstate, No.
91-6982, 1992 WL 102885, at *2 (E.D. Pa. May 7, 1992). Under
Pennsylvania law, insurance policy interpretation is a matter
of law for the court. See Pa. Nat'l Mut. Cas. Ins.
Co. v. St. John,106 A.3d 1, 14 (Pa. 2014). The
"goal in construing and applying the language of an
insurance contract is to effectuate the intent of the parties
as manifested by the language of the specific policy."
Id. (citing 401 Fourth St., Inc. v. Investors
Ins. Grp.,879 A.2d 166, 171 (Pa. 2005)); Madison
Constr. Co. v. Harleysville Mut. Ins. Co.,735 A.2d 100,
106 (Pa. 1999) ("The polestar of [the court's]
inquiry ... is the language of the insurance policy.").
"When the language of an insurance policy is plain and
unambiguous, [the] court is bound by that language."
St. John, 106 A.3d at 14. "Alternatively, if an
insurance policy contains an ambiguous term, 'the policy
is to be construed in favor of the insured to further the
contract's prime purpose of indemnification and against
the insurer, as the insurer drafts the policy, and controls
coverage.'" Id. (quoting 401 Fourth
St., 879 A.2d at 171). "Contract language is
ambiguous if it is reasonably susceptible to more than one
construction and meaning." Id. (citing
Lititz Mut. Ins. Co. v. Steely,785 A.2d 975, 978
(Pa. 2001)). "Finally, the ...