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Des Longchamps v. Allstate Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co.

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

May 4, 2015

HENRY DES LONGCHAMPS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ALLSTATE PROPERTY & CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant

For HENRY DES LONGCHAMPS, Plaintiff, Counter Defendant: Michael Loyola Rowan, LEAD ATTORNEY, ETHRIDGE, QUINN, MCAULIFFE, ROWAN & HARTINGER, Rockville, MD.

For ALLSTATE PROPERTY & CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant: John Michael Bredehoft, LEAD ATTORNEY, KAUFMAN & CANOLES, P.C., Norfolk, VA; Winthrop A. Short, Jr., PRO HAC VICE, KAUFMAN & CANOLES, P.C., Newport News, VA.

For ALLSTATE PROPERTY & CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant: John Michael Bredehoft, LEAD ATTORNEY, KAUFMAN & CANOLES, P.C., Norfolk, VA; Winthrop A. Short, Jr., KAUFMAN & CANOLES, P.C., Newport News, VA.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.

As Washington, D.C. residents will remember, in June 2012 a storm cell (called a " derecho" ) of driving rains and high winds swept through the mid-Atlantic region, knocking out power and damaging buildings--plaintiff Henry des Longchamps' home included. After the storm, des Longchamps filed a claim with defendant Allstate (his insurance provider), which paid for repairs to his property. But the parties disagree about the price tag for these repairs, and des Longchamps has asked the Court to appoint an umpire to resolve this dispute. There is, however, one problem with his request: the parties' insurance contract makes plain that this action--filed over a year after the derecho inflicted its damage--comes too late. The Court will therefore grant Allstate's motion for summary judgment and deny des Longchamps' cross-motion.[1]

BACKGROUND

As explained in the complaint, " [o]n or about June 29, 2012, during the Washington Area derecho, [des Longchamps' home] sustained damages covered by the Allstate [i]nsurance policy." Compl. [ECF No. 1-2] ¶ 5. Des Longchamps filed a claim with Allstate, and he hired Maggio Roofing Company to make the necessary repairs to his roof, detached garage, and fence. See id. ¶ ¶ 6--7. Indeed, des Longchamps signed an agreement with Maggio Roofing, whereby--in exchange for its repair work--that company would be entitled to directly collect " any and all insurance rights, benefits, and proceeds" paid by Allstate on des Longchamps' claim.[2] Ex. R to Def.'s Mot. [ECF No. 24-11] at 2.

At this point, everyone agrees that Maggio Roofing has completed (or is contractually obligated to complete) des Longchamps' repairs. Compare Def.'s Mem. at 10 (calling these material facts as to which there is no dispute) with Pls.' Opp'n at 5--6 (failing to dispute these facts). But important disagreements remain. An Allstate claims adjuster estimated that the derecho caused more than $156,000 in damages to des Longchamps' property. See Ex. H to Def.'s Mot. [ECF No. 24-1] at 32. And in March 2013, Allstate issued its final check to des Longchamps in accordance with its valuation of the derecho claim. See id. at 2. But des Longchamps was not satisfied with Allstate's estimate and payment. On June 28, 2013, he demanded that his claim go through an appraisal process before two appraisers and an umpire. See Ex. I to Def.'s Mot. [ECF No. 24-2] at 2, 3. The parties did not see eye to eye on these appointments though--Allstate raised questions about the impartiality of des Longchamps' proposed appraiser, and the umpire withdrew from the dispute before any appraisal could be made. See, e.g., Ex. P to Def.'s Mot. [ECF No. 24-9] at 2 (designated umpire withdrew because of " [t]he complexity of this claim along with other details [that] were not revealed . . . prior to [his] accepting the position" ).

In light of these disagreements, on September 18, 2013, des Longchamps filed the present complaint, which asks the Court to appoint an umpire to reconcile the parties' positions. See Compl. at 5. To justify this request, des Longchamps invokes a provision in his insurance contract with Allstate. The provision--headlined " Appraisal" --explains that " [i]f [the parties] fail to agree on the amount of loss, either party may make written demand for an appraisal," at which point both parties will select " a competent and impartial appraiser." Ex. A to Def.'s Mot. [ECF No. 23-2] (" Insurance Contract" ) at 26. " The appraisers will [then] select a competent and impartial umpire," but if they cannot agree on an umpire, the parties " can ask a judge . . . to select an umpire" for them. Id. Finally, these appraisers (and, if necessary, the umpire as tiebreaker) are obliged to determine " the amount of loss" that Allstate must pay to satisfy the claim. Id.

This appraisal clause is not, however, the only contractual provision relevant to this suit. The contract also imposes some limits on the ability of the parties to litigate their disputes in court. Specifically, the " Action Against Us [i.e., Allstate]" clause says:

No one may bring an action against [Allstate] in any way related to the existence or amount of coverage, or the amount of loss for which coverage is sought . . . unless: a) there has been full compliance with all policy terms; and b) the action is commenced within one year after the inception of loss or damage.

Id. at 27 (emphasis omitted). Largely on the strength of this litigation-limitations clause, Allstate has moved for summary judgment on des Longchamps' appointment-of-an-umpire claim. The insurer argues (among other things) that the claim is time-barred as a matter of law, because des Longchamps waited until September 2013 to file his complaint--which is several months after the first anniversary of the June 2012 derecho.

LEGAL STANDARD

The standard that controls this case is a familiar one. Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence in the record " 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). It is the moving party's burden to demonstrate the absence of such genuine (and material) disputes--usually through use of documents, depositions, declarations, and other materials. See id. 56(c)(1); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). For the Court to find a " genuine" issue, there must be evidence in the record from which " a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In other words, the nonmoving party must " set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial" --" mere allegations or denials" or the " mere scintilla of evidence" in opposition to summary judgment is not enough. Id. at 248, 252 (internal quotation marks omitted). Likewise, for a dispute to concern a " material" fact, the fact must be one " that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law" (or, in this case, the governing contract). ...


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