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Nkpado v. Dar the Standard Fire Insurance Co.

March 24, 2010

JUDE NKPADO, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DAR THE STANDARD FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Deborah A. Robinson United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

A bench trial in the above-caption action was commenced on May 20, 2009 and concluded on May 29, 2009. At the close of Plaintiffs' evidence, Defendant orally moved for judgment on partial findings pursuant to Rule 52(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendant claims that Plaintiffs did not prove their case, and that the action is barred by the one-year provision included in the insurance policy. Plaintiffs assert that they are entitled to specific performance of the contract and monetary damages.

Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, oral argument, and the entire record herein, the undersigned finds that Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the insurance policy's one-year limitations provision. Accordingly, Defendant's motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Jude and Eucharia Nkpado commenced this action in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia against Defendant Standard Fire Insurance Company. Plaintiffs (husband and wife) are residents of the District of Columbia. Complaint ("Compl.") ¶ 1. Defendant has business offices located in various places within the District of Columbia. Id. ¶ 2.

On March 25, 1998, Plaintiffs purchased the property that is the subject of this dispute. On February 5, 2007, Plaintiffs renewed their insurance policy with Defendant regarding the property. The policy provided for coverage of the dwelling on the premises as well as the walls that support the dwelling. Id. ¶ 4. Additional coverage includes a caving in of any part of a building with such that it cannot be occupied for its intended purpose. Id. Also, the policy covers any direct physical loss involving collapse of any part of a building if the collapse was caused by perils.*fn1 Id; see also "Homeowners Policy Booklet from Travelers" (Document No. 1-3) (Section I Property Coverages discusses perils insured against).

Plaintiffs allege that on April 16, 2007, a huge tree fell on the Nkpado covered residence.*fn2

Id. ¶ 5. Plaintiffs submit that the "impact of the fallen tree shook the whole house, destroyed a large section of the roof, pushed in the basement wall, cracked the supporting walls in many places, caused damage to interior fixtures, destroyed front yard landscaping and walkway, and has caused water damage from the unrepaired damaged areas." Id. ¶ 6.

After the incident in question, Defendant made an initial estimate and sent Plaintiffs a check in the amount of $3,130.00 to immediately pay for necessary repairs. Id. Plaintiffs allege that there was a mistake made in the estimate and decided to engage FMC Structural Design to do a structural survey. Id. On May 10, 2007, FMC Structural Design sent its report to Plaintiffs, who in turn, sent it to Defendant. Id. On May 25, 2007, Defendant made a second estimate with a total damage of $9,229.08 and paid Plaintiffs an additional $3,909.67. Id. Defendant states that it made payments under the policy totaling $7,039.67. Amended Answer ("Am. Answer") ¶ 6.

On or about August 5, 2007, Plaintiffs allegedly sent estimates to Defendant in an attempt to reach a reasonable settlement. Compl. ¶ 7; Am. Answer ¶ 6. Plaintiffs engaged The International Business Law Firm (IBLF) to try to reach the settlement with Travelers. Compl. ¶ 7. There were two estimates submitted to Defendant: (1) a proposal in the amount of $94,870.00 for the repairs recommended by FMC Structural Design, Inc.; and (2) a proposal in the amount of $16,642.00 which included materials and labor to repair the roof. Compl. ¶ 7.

On August 14, 2007, a representative of Defendant provided Plaintiffs with a structural inspection report done by EFI Global. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiffs allege that the contents of the report were irrelevant and it included matters not contained in the report the Nkpados submitted to Defendant.*fn3 Id.

On November 9, 2007, Defendant increased the coverage by $591.23 and sent Plaintiffs a check for that amount. Id. ¶ 10. "Plaintiffs returned the check claiming that it was inadequate to repair the damage along with a letter reminding Travelers that its policy prevents repairs if the compensation is unsatisfactory." Id. Plaintiffs submit that Defendant has been non-responsive to a request for "urgent request to provide funds to complete the bid to repair the roof with the reminder that there was a hole in the roof and structural damage..." Id. ¶ 11.

On August 4, 2008, the case was removed from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to the United States District ...


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