Pennsylvania Homeowners Granted Summary Judgment, in Part, in Insurance Claim against Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company

Case Name: Michalek et al v. Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company

Court: United States District Court – Western District of Pennsylvania

Date of Opinion: April 7th, 2022

Judge: Joy Flowers Conti

Overview: Insureds filed a lawsuit against their insurer for a denial of claims related to numerous floods in their house.  The court granted summary judgment, in part, in their favor.

Background: This case involves an insurance claim set forth by damage to the plaintiff’s home in Murrysville, Pennsylvania.  The home was flooded with water damage on four occasions between 2017 and 2018 and was subsequently demolished in 2020.  The Michalek’s had entered into a homeowners insurance policy with the defendants (Nationwide).

After making some payments to the Michalek’s under the policy, the plaintiffs sued Nationwide for breach of contract and bad faith under the insurance policy.  Nationwide alleges that it does not owe any additional funds under the policy and, thus, did not breach the contract and should be awarded summary judgment.

The court notes that a jury could reasonably conclude that Nationwide wrongly denied coverage to the Michalek’s due to the damage from the November 2017 incident. In addition, the court notes that a reasonable jury would conclude that the damage was caused by rain which did not seep into the foundation and, thus, would not fall under the exclusions in the policy.

In addition, the court concludes that the Michalek’s failure to mitigate damages is an affirmative defense to which Nationwide would bear the burden of proof at the trial stage of litigation.

The court also notes that Nationwide also denied coverage for personal property damages because it claims that the Michalek’s house did not have a “roof”, as it was partially covered with a tarp. The judge opines that there are no material disputes of fact which would define its durability or relative performance which would prevent summary judgment.  The court notes that there is not enough evidence for it to find that the tarp was not a “roof” or that Nationwide could deny coverage on that basis.

The judge does decide, however, that Nationwide should succeed in summary judgment on the issue of Additional Living Expenses as a reasonable jury could not conclude that the Michalek’s provided enough evidence of their ALE.  The Michalek’s, says the judge, did not provide any receipts or supporting documentation for their ALE.

Conclusion:  Nationwide is granted summary judgment on the ALE expenses but denied summary judgment on the remaining breach of contract pleadings.

Steven M. Cohen
Law Librarian | + posts

Steven M. Cohen is a law librarian at a midsize law firm in New York City.  He was the creator of Library Stuff, one of the first library blogs, which lasted over 15 years.  He obtained his MLS from Queens College in 2002.  His passions include legal research, reading novels, and rooting on his favorite sports teams.