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Young v. Allstate Vehicle and Property Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

November 29, 2017




         Pending before the Court is Defendant Allstate's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. #22). After reviewing the relevant pleadings and motion, the Court finds Defendant's motion should be granted.


         This case arises from Defendant's denial of Plaintiffs Jon and Leslie Young's claim for water loss damage. Plaintiffs obtained an insurance policy (the “Policy”) from Defendant, effective from July 22, 2015, through July 22, 2016. On June 20, 2016, after suffering a water loss, Plaintiffs filed a claim under the Policy with Defendant. Subsequently, Defendant denied the claim. As a result, Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendant asserting claims for breach of contract, breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“DTPA”), and violations of the Texas Insurance Code (Dkt. #13).

         On August 18, 2017, Defendant filed its Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. #22). On September 11, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their response (Dkt. #23). Defendant filed Objections to Plaintiffs' Evidence in Support of Summary Judgment (Dkt. #24) and its reply (Dkt. #25) on September 18, 2017.


         The purpose of summary judgment is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Summary judgment is proper under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute about a material fact is genuine when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Substantive law identifies which facts are material. Id. The trial court “must resolve all reasonable doubts in favor of the party opposing the motion for summary judgment.” Casey Enters., Inc. v. Am. Hardware Mut. Ins. Co., 655 F.2d 598, 602 (5th Cir. 1981).

         The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of its motion and identifying “depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If the movant bears the burden of proof on a claim or defense for which it is moving for summary judgment, it must come forward with evidence that establishes “beyond peradventure all of the essential elements of the claim or defense.” Fontenot v. Upjohn Co., 780 F.2d 1190, 1194 (5th Cir. 1986). Where the nonmovant bears the burden of proof, the movant may discharge the burden by showing that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmovant's case. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325; Byers v. Dall. Morning News, Inc., 209 F.3d 419, 424 (5th Cir. 2000). Once the movant has carried its burden, the nonmovant must “respond to the motion for summary judgment by setting forth particular facts indicating there is a genuine issue for trial.” Byers, 209 F.3d at 424 (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49). A nonmovant must present affirmative evidence to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257. Mere denials of material facts, unsworn allegations, or arguments and assertions in briefs or legal memoranda will not suffice to carry this burden. Rather, the Court requires “significant probative evidence” from the nonmovant to dismiss a request for summary judgment. In re Mun. Bond Reporting Antitrust Litig., 672 F.2d 436, 440 (5th Cir. 1982) (quoting Ferguson v. Nat'l Broad. Co., 584 F.2d 111, 114 (5th Cir. 1978)). The Court must consider all of the evidence but “refrain from making any credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.” Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007).


         Defendant argues Plaintiffs provided no, or in the alternative insufficient, evidence on all of their claims against Defendant. As such, the Court addresses each claim in turn.

         a. Breach of Contract

         Defendant makes three arguments for why Plaintiffs' breach of contract claim fails. Specifically, Defendant avers that (1) there is no evidence of a covered claim; (2) if the claim is covered, there is no, or insufficient, evidence that Defendant breached the insurance agreement; and (3) there is no, or insufficient, evidence to establish Plaintiffs' damages with reasonable certainty. Plaintiff responds by stating that their expert, Sam Rogers (“Rogers”), establishes that (1) this claim is covered under the Policy; (2) Defendant breached the insurance agreement; and (3) the amount of damages is reasonably certain.

         “Under Texas law, a plaintiff alleging a breach of contract must show ‘(1) the existence of a valid contract; (2) performance or tendered performance by the plaintiff; (3) breach of the contract by the defendant; and (4) damages to the plaintiff resulting from that breach.'” Villarreal v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 814 F.3d 763, 767 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Wright v. Christian & Smith, 950 S.W.2d 411, 412 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1997, no writ)). Further, “for an insurance company to be liable for a breach of its duty to satisfy a claim presented by its insured, the insured must prove that its claim falls within the insuring agreement of the policy.” Crose v. Humana Ins. Co., 823 F.3d 344, 348 (5th Cir. 2016) (citing Data Specialties, Inc. v. Transcont'l Ins. Co., 125 F.3d 909, 911 (5th Cir. 1997)).

         Here, the Policy covered “sudden and accidental” losses that occurred between July 22, 2015, and July 22, 2016 (Dkt. #22, Exhibit 1 at p. 36). The Policy defines “sudden and accidental” as “damage which occurs abruptly and is unexpected and/or unintended from the standpoint of you.” (Dkt. #22, Exhibit 1 at p. 31) (emphasis in original). Defendant argues Plaintiffs' claim is not covered under the Policy because “the loss was not [the] result of a sudden leak” but “rather [occurred] over an extended period of time.” (Dkt. #22, Exhibit 2 at p. 2). Conversely, Rogers, after locating the source of the water to be a broken drain pipe located behind the kitchen cabinets, opined that “the water damage was the result of an accidental and sudden occurrence” and “was not the result of negligence or long-term damage or long-term seepage.” (Dkt. #23, Exhibit 3 at p. 2). Defendant objects to Rogers's statement arguing it is conclusory and inadmissible summary judgment evidence. Specifically, Defendant avers ...

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