West Virginia Federal Court Denies Summary Judgment To Insurer On Hail And Water Damage Claim

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, in FA Mgmt. v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 75912, 2 (N.D. W. Va. June 4, 2014), was presented with an insurer’s motion for summary judgment (among other discovery and trial motions) in connection with litigation between the insurer and its insured over coverage for hail storm damage.  Specifically, the insured was a hotel claiming roof damage and interior water damage on account of a March 22, 2010 hailstorm. The hotel submitted a claim to its insurer, Great American, nine or thirteen months after the storm claiming over $200,000 in damage from the storm.  Great American inspected both claims and determined that only $12,755.05 of the damage was due to the subject storm.  Less the insured’s $5,000.00 deductible, Great American paid the hotel $7,755.05.

The hotel filed suit after Great American denied the hotel’s request for appraisal.  Great American filed a motion for summary judgment asserting, among other arguments, that the hotel could not meet its burden of proving that the hail damage caused the interior water damage underlying the claim.  Great American also took the position that the hotel could not prove a covered loss within the applicable policy period based on the hotel’s delay in reporting the claim.  To rebut the motion, the hotel relied on two expert reports opining, based on visual inspections of the property and weather data, that there was hail in the area of the hotel on March 22.

In denying the insurer’s motion for summary judgment, the court relied on the reports from the hotel’s experts indicating that hail and winds “were at least present” on March 22.  The court also relied on proof submitted by the hotel of subsequent wind and rain damage to the hotel in July 2010.  The court found a genuine issue of material fact as to whether or not hail damage caused the water damage, concluding that there was at least some evidence that the water damage could have been caused by hail, wind, or some other rain damage that would support a finding that the hotel’s loss was covered by the insurance contract.


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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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