United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL
B. Leighton United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Hartford's Motion
for Partial Summary Judgment on Plaintiff Witts' contract
claims. [Dkt. #12]. The Witts purchased a Hartford homeowners
policy for their home, which was damaged by fire in February,
2015. Hartford has paid more than $650, 000 for the claim.
The case (and this motion) involves three areas of continued
dispute over Hartford's obligations under the policy:
policy covered the structure for $251, 000 (“Coverage
A”), which was extended if the structure was replaced.
Hartford argues that the extended replacement limit is capped
at 1.5 times the stated coverage, or $376, 500. The Witts
claim that the coverage was extended for an
additional 1.5 times the stated structure coverage,
or [$251, 000 (1.5 x 251, 000)] = $627, 500. Hartford
argues that this is a plain vanilla contract construction
issue and that the Witts' reading is wrong as a matter of
law. The Witts argue that the contract is unambiguous and
that their reading is correct, and that if it is ambiguous it
must be construed in their favor.
policy included an additional living expenses, or ALE,
coverage. The Witts claim that Hartford's adjuster agreed
to pay them $1400 per month to live in a cabin on the
property, in lieu of paying them significantly more to live
in a rental home. In reliance on that promise, they
refurbished the cabin to make it livable.
Witts' claim depends on their public adjuster's claim
that the promise was made, and their own claim that they
reasonably relied on it. Hartford ultimately paid $5650 for
this work, but denies that it ever agreed or promised to pay
the Witts any monthly amount to live in their own cabin.
Hartford argues that the policy is clear that ALE coverage is
triggered only where such expenses are actually incurred,
that they consistently told the Witts this, and that there is
no evidence in support of the Witt's claim.
policy included an “ordinance and law” coverage,
which pays for cost increases due to building code
enforcement. The Witts claim they incurred additional costs
(a total of $54, 200, of which Hartford has paid $32, 350)
due to code compliance. The Witts therefore claim an
additional $21, 850 for increased code compliance costs.
Hartford claims that it already characterized repair costs
that would not have otherwise been payable (due to the cap
discussed above) as code costs, and denies that it owes any
additional amounts. It claims there is no support for the
Witts' additional code claim as a matter of law.
Summary Judgment Standard.
judgment is proper “if the pleadings, the discovery and
disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In determining whether an issue of fact
exists, the Court must view all evidence in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable
inferences in that party's favor. Anderson
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-50
(1986); Bagdadi v. Nazar, 84 F.3d 1194, 1197 (9th
Cir. 1996). A genuine issue of material fact exists where
there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable factfinder to
find for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at
248. The inquiry is “whether the evidence presents a
sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or
whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a
matter of law.” Id. At 251-52. The moving
party bears the initial burden of showing that there is no
evidence which supports an element essential to the
non-movant's claim. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the movant has met this
burden, the nonmoving party then must show that there is a
genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.
If the nonmoving party fails to establish the existence of a
genuine issue of material fact, “the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24.
is no requirement that the moving party negate elements of
the non-movant's case. Lujan v. National Wildlife
Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed. 2D
695 (1990). Once the moving party has met its burden, the
non-movant must then produce concrete evidence, without
merely relying on allegations in the pleadings, that there
remain genuine factual issues. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986).
Coverage A included a 150% cap, not an additional 150%
coverage, for structure replacement.
can be no dispute about the terms of the policy, despite the
fact that it requires the reader to look in multiple places
to find those terms. It states:
there is a toss to the building insured under Coverage A that
exceeds the Coverage A limit of liability shown in the
1. We will increase the Coverage A limit of liability to
equal the current "replacement cost" of the
building. However, in no event will such increased limit
exceed * times the Coveraae A amount shown in the
[Dkt. #113-15 at 31] The asterisk refers the reader to an
endorsement, which provides that the entry “may be left
blank if shown elsewhere in the coverage.” Hartford
claims that the applicable “elsewhere” is the
Policy Declarations, which provide that the “additional