14 June 2023

QPWB WINS FINAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON “CAST IRON PIPES” FIRST PARTY PROPERTY CLAIM

Contact Information

Managing Partner

Eric W. Boyer

(305) 670-1101

eboyer@qpwblaw.com

Release Date

14 June 2023

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Pensacola – May 25, 2023 ― QPWB Tampa office attorney, Lance M. Litman, represented the insurer, Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company, “Universal.”  The plaintiffs, homeowners insured at the time through a policy with Universal, sued Universal for an alleged breach of contract in failing to provide benefits as a result of water damage allegedly sustained to the insureds’ property.  The property claim had been reported by the insured, and Universal promptly completed its inspection and investigation which resulted in a denial after finding no damage.  The plaintiffs subsequently filed suit against Universal and supported their claim by submission of a 173-page construction cost summary prepared by Advanced Pace Technologies, which included the replacement of the homes cast-iron pipe system and a rebuild well into the six-figures.

The defense submitted a Motion for Final Summary Judgment and Incorporated Memorandum of Law arguing that the homeowners’ insurance policy is not a home warranty, and the plaintiffs failed to perfect a claim for damages as the alleged loss did not result in a direct physical loss to the property.  The argument continued in providing that just because a home of a certain age, containing cast iron pipes, has water overflowing and backing up, does not automatically qualify as damage to the property.  Opposing counsel for the plaintiffs filed a response wherein they argued wastewater escaping from the plumbing system that failed was in fact direct physical damage to the interior and exterior of the property, and should be, at the very least, a disputed issue of material fact for a jury to consider.  The defense argument addressed the plaintiffs’ position by simplifying the argument in proffering to the Court that physical loss to the property cannot be extended to the point where we are considering “structural fill” or dirt under the property, which came in contact with water that escaped from the failing pipes, to qualify under a homeowners’ insurance policy.

The matter proceeded to a hearing for oral argument with Circuit Court Judge, Honorable Amy P. Brodersen presiding. The defense argued that its position was not that the insureds’ cast iron pipe system was not failing, but rather that the replacement of the cast iron pipe system is not covered by the homeowners’ insurance policy where no evidence exists to indicate any physical loss to the property.

Honorable Amy P. Brodersen agreed with the defense and granted the Motion for Final Summary Judgment and Incorporated Memorandum of Law.  The Court entered a Final Order Granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, adopting the Defendant’s Motion in full.

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Lance M. Litman is a partner in the Tampa office focusing on insurance defense, general liability, first-party property claims, personal injury, and premise liability. He received his Juris Doctor from Florida State University College of Law in 2009 and is admitted to practice in Florida.

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