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Lees v. Allstate Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 30, 2017

ALAN D. LEES and ROMELA J. LEES, Plaintiffs,
v.
ALLSTATE INSURANCE CO., Defendant.

          RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Alan and Romela Lees (“The Leeses” or “Plaintiffs”) sued Allstate Insurance Co. (“Allstate” or “Defendant”) after Allstate denied coverage for crumbling concrete in the Leeses' finished basement, claiming breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and unfair and deceptive practices.

         Allstate moves for summary judgment, arguing that the insurance policy at issue unambiguously covers only sudden and accidental collapses-not, according to Allstate, the gradual deterioration damaging the Leeses' basement. Allstate argues that it properly denied coverage and did not breach its contract. Allstate also argues that it cannot have breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing or engaged in unfair and deceptive practices because it did not breach its contract with the Leeses, and even if the Court concludes that Allstate did breach its contract, it did not do so with malicious intent.

         For the reasons discussed below, Allstate's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 6, 2014, Alan and Romela Lees purchased a house, believing it had only minor defects. Compl. ¶ 4. Before buying the house, they worked with an inspector, who spotted cracks in the basement walls but recommended only that the Leeses fill the cracks to prevent water leaks, and monitor them. Stmt. Material Facts (“SMF”) at 7, ECF No. 45. The Leeses also purchased an annually renewing homeowner's insurance policy from Allstate. Id. at 2.

         The insurance policy covers “sudden and accidental direct physical loss to property . . . except as limited or excluded in this policy.” Compl., Ex. A at 8, ECF 1-1. Exclusions include:

Earth movement of any type, including, but not limited to earthquake, volcanic eruption, lava flow, landslide, subsidence, mudflow, pressure, sinkhole, erosion, or the sinking, rising, shifting, creeping, expanding, bulging, cracking, settling or contracting of the earth. This exclusion applies whether or not the earth movement is combined with water.

Id. The policy does cover “sudden and accidental direct loss caused by fire, explosion, theft or breakage of glass or safety glazing materials resulting from earth movement.” Id. But it does not cover loss resulting from:

a) wear and tear, aging, marring, scratching, deterioration, inherent vice, or latent defect;
b) mechanical breakdown;
c) growth of trees, shrubs, plants or lawns whether or not such growth is above or below the surface of the ground;
d) rust or other corrosion, mold, wet or dry rot;
e) contamination, including, but not limited to the presence of toxic, noxious or hazardous gasses, chemicals, liquids, solids or other substances at the residence premises or in the air, land or water serving the residence premises;
f) smog, smoke from the manufacturing of any controlled substance, agricultural smudging and industrial operations;
g) settling, cracking, shrinking, bulging or expansion of pavements, patios, foundations, walls, floors, roofs or ceilings;
h) insects, rodents, birds or domestic animals. We do cover the breakage of glass or safety glazing materials caused by birds; or
i) seizure by government authority.

Id. at 9-10.

         The “Collapse” provision of the policy covers “(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.” Id. at 17. The collapse ...


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