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Nat'l Presbyterian Church, Inc. v. GuideOne Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

February 11, 2015

NATIONAL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
GUIDEONE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant

For NATIONAL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, INC., Plaintiff, Counter Defendant: Neil K. Roman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Christopher Paul Nofal, COVINGTON & BURLING, LLP, Washington, DC.

For GUIDEONE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant, Counter Claimant: Linda S. Woolf, LEAD ATTORNEY, GOODELL, DEVRIES, LEECH & DANN, LLP, Baltimore, MD.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.

In August 2011, an earthquake struck Washington, D.C., damaging National Presbyeterian Church. The church's exterior is comprised of hundreds of limestone panels, some of which were cracked or otherwise damaged by the earthquake. So the church filed an insurance claim to repair the damage. But the church fears that merely replacing the damaged panels would diminish the aesthetic qualities of the faç ade, as the new, unweathered panels could have noticeably different coloration than the remaining panels. Thus, the church believes that GuideOne, its insurer, is required to pay for repairs that not only fix the structural damage, but also create a matching faç ade. Both parties seek a declaratory judgment as to the matching issue. Because the insurance policy is ambiguous, the Court must find in favor of the church: hence, matching is required.[1]

BACKGROUND

The parties agree that the damaged panels themselves are covered by the insurance policy--and, at least for the purposes of this motion, that fixing only those panels would not exceed the deductible. The question at issue, then, is whether the policy requires GuideOne to pay for repairs that match aesthetically, rather than repairs that merely function.[2]

The insurance policy's " Building and Personal Property Coverage Form" explains that GuideOne " will pay for direct physical loss of or damage to Covered Property at the premises described in the Declarations caused by or resulting from any Covered Cause of Loss." Ex. A to Compl. (" Ins. Policy" ) [ECF No. 17-1] at 45. " Covered Property," in turn, " means the type of property described in this section, A.1, and limited in A.2, Property Not Covered." Id. Under that designation, " Covered Property" refers in part to the " Building, meaning the building or structure described in the Declarations," including fixtures, outdoor furniture, and fences. Id.

The loss payment provision explains that:

In the event of loss or damage covered by this Coverage Form, at our option, we will either:
(1) Pay the value of lost or damaged property;
(2) Pay the cost of repairing or replacing the lost or damaged property, subject to b. below [relating to ordinances regarding construction];
(3) Take all or any part of the property at an agreed or appraised value; or
(4) Repair, rebuild or replace the property with other property of like kind and quality, subject to b. below.
We will determine the value of lost or damaged property, or the cost of its repair or replacement, in accordance with the applicable terms of the Valuation Condition in this Coverage Form or any applicable ...

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