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Agosti v. Merrimack Mut. Fire Ins. Co.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 28, 2017



          Stefan R. Underhill, United States District Judge.

         In the present insurance dispute, Allstate Insurance Co. (“Allstate”) has moved to dismiss the claims filed against it by Barry and Robin Agosti. The Agostis' complaint alleges in Counts Four, Five, and Six that (1) Allstate breached its contract with the Agostis by denying coverage under their homeowner's insurance policy (the “Allstate Policy”) for damage to their basement walls; (2) Allstate breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by baselessly denying coverage; and (3) Allstate committed unfair and deceptive practices proscribed by the Connecticut Unfair Insurance Practices Act (“CUIPA”), as enforced through the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”). Because the Allstate Policy provides coverage only for an “entire collapse, ” and the Agostis have alleged no facts to suggest such a collapse occurred here, I grant the motion and dismiss the pertinent counts of the complaint.

         I. Standard of Review

         A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is designed “merely to assess the legal feasibility of a complaint, not to assay the weight of evidence which might be offered in support thereof.” Ryder Energy Distribution Corp. v. Merrill Lynch Commodities, 748 F.2d 774, 779 (2d Cir. 1984) (quoting Geisler v. Petrocelli, 616 F.2d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 1980)). When deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept the material facts alleged in the complaint as true, draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiffs, and decide whether it is plausible that plaintiffs have a valid claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007); Leeds v. Meltz, 85 F.3d 51, 53 (2d Cir. 1996).

         Under Twombly, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” and assert a cause of action with enough heft to show entitlement to relief and “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” 550 U.S. at 555, 570; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (“While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.”). The plausibility standard set forth in Twombly and Iqbal obligates the plaintiff to “provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief” through more than “labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quotation marks omitted). Plausibility at the pleading stage is nonetheless distinct from probability, and “a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of [the claims] is improbable, and . . . recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Id. at 556 (quotation marks omitted).

         II. Background

         Plaintiffs Barry and Robin Agosti own and reside at a house in Tolland, Connecticut, which is protected by a homeowner's insurance policy underwritten by defendant Allstate. Compl., Doc. No. 1, at Count 1, ¶¶ 1, 3. Prior to September 2015, the Agostis gradually “observed visible cracking in the concrete of their home.” Id. at ¶ 5. On September 15, 2015, the Agostis “had their basement inspected by a professional structural engineer” because they were concerned about the “visible cracking patterns in the basement walls” and were “aware[] . . . [of] deteriorating concrete issues [from] recent media reports.” Id. at ¶ 6. The engineer's inspection “indicated the concrete deterioration and cracking were caused by a chemical reaction in the concrete, ” which he concluded “would continue to progressively deteriorate the basement walls, rendering the structure unusable.” Id. at ¶ 7. As a result, the engineer “recommended replacement of the concrete basement walls.” Id.

         Following the inspection, on November 10, 2015, the Agostis “made a timely formal claim for coverage under [their] homeowner's insurance policy” with Allstate. Id. at Count 4, ¶ 8. They asserted that the loss to their basement walls was covered as a “collapse” due to “hidden decay and/or defective materials.” Id. at ¶ 10. Although the Allstate Policy provides that Allstate generally “do[es] not cover loss to the property . . . consisting of or caused by: . . . 12. Collapse . . . [or] 15. . . . (g) settling, cracking, shrinking, bulging or expansion of . . . foundations [or] walls, ” Allstate Policy, Ex. C to Allstate's Mot. Dismiss, Doc. No. 17-4, at 31-33, it does offer coverage pursuant to an “Additional Protection, ” which reads as follows:

[Allstate] will cover:
a) the entire collapse of a covered building structure;
b) the entire collapse of part of a covered building structure; and
c) direct physical loss to covered property caused by (a) or (b) above.

         For coverage to apply, the collapse of a building structure specified in (a) or (b) above must be a sudden and accidental direct physical loss caused by one or more of the following:

a) a loss we cover under Section I, Coverage C-Personal Property Protection;
b) hidden decay of the building structure;
c) hidden damage to the building structure caused by insects or vermin;
d) weight of persons, animals, equipment or contents;
e) weight of rain or snow which collects on a roof;
f) defective methods or materials used in construction, repair, ...

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