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Burman v. State Farm Lloyds

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

April 4, 2019




         On this date, the Court considered Defendant State Farm Lloyds' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (docket no. 25), Plaintiff William Burman's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (docket no. 22), and the corresponding responses and replies. After careful consideration, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion and DENIES Plaintiff's motion.


         This insurance dispute stems from Plaintiff William Burman's claim for damage caused by a water leak. Burman insured his residential property at 12002 Rose Blossom Street through a policy issued by Defendant State Farm Lloyds (“State Farm”). After Burman reported a plumbing leak on February 26, 2016, he made a claim with State Farm, and State Farm paid for several repairs, most of which are not at issue (for water damage to flooring, for example). The only payment at issue relates to the foundation.

         State Farm retained engineer Oscar Lara of Lara Engineering to determine whether the leak caused the foundation to move. Lara's report, from May 12, 2016, stated “that the observed foundation movements are primarily the result of seasonal moisture changes, and vegetation effects. However, the domestic water line leaked identified and repaired by [American Leak Detection] did exacerbate the foundation movements in an isolated area of the residence.”

         State Farm paid to repair cosmetic damage from foundation movement that fell within this “zone of influence, ” as determined by Lara. Burman claims State Farm should pay for foundation underpinning, which he claims was needed for damage caused by the plumbing leak. Lara determined the foundation problems predated the leak and the leak damage did not warrant underpinning, so, State Farm denied Burman's claim for underpinning the foundation.

         Burman retained engineer Moises Cruz of A-1 Engineering, who concluded that the foundation required underpinning because of the leak. Lara, in reviewing Cruz's report, noted Cruz identified other possible causes of foundation movement, reported that cracks pre-dating the leak had worsened, and reported that the dome shape of the foundation indicated a long-term problem. This review caused State Farm to reaffirm its denial.

         Based on this denial, Burman brought this action on April 3, 2018, in the 150th Judicial District Court for Bexar County, Texas. Docket no. 1. He brings claims for breach of contract and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“DTPA”) and Texas Insurance Code. Docket no. 14. State Farm removed to this Court on May 8, 2018. Docket no. 1. Here, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, seeking an interpretation of the policy terms. Further, State Farm moves for summary judgment on Burman's extra-contractual claims.


         I. Applicable Law

         a. Standard of Review

         The Court shall grant summary judgment 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). To establish that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, the movant must either submit evidence that negates the existence of some material element of the non-moving party's claim or defense, or, if the crucial issue is one for which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, merely point out that the evidence in the record is insufficient to support an essential element of the non-movant's claim or defense. Lavespere v. Niagra Machine & Tool Works, Inc., 910 F.2d 167, 178 (5th Cir. 1990). Once the movant carries its initial burden, the burden shifts to the non-movant to show that summary judgment is inappropriate. See Fields v. City of S. Hous., 922 F.2d 1183, 1187 (5th Cir. 1991).

         In order for a court to conclude that there are no genuine issues of material fact, the court must be satisfied that no reasonable trier of fact could have found for the non-movant, or, in other words, that the evidence favoring the non-movant is insufficient to enable a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-movant. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 n.4 (1986). In making this determination, the court should review all the evidence in the record, giving credence to the evidence favoring the non-movant as well as the “evidence supporting the moving party that is uncontradicted and unimpeached, at least to the extent that evidence comes from disinterested witnesses.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 151 (2000). The Court “may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence” in ruling on a motion for summary judgment, id. at 150, and must review all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, First Colony Life Ins. Co. v. Sanford, 555 F.3d 177, 181 (5th Cir. 2009).

         II. Application

         The parties bring cross-motions for summary judgment on the policy terms relevant to the foundation damage. The Court will first decide this issue, and then turn to State Farm's motion for summary judgment on the extra-contractual claims.

         a. Policy Liability Limit

         i. Insurance ...

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