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Azoroh v. Automobile Ins. Co of Hartford

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 4, 2016

AZOROH et al., Plaintiffs
v.
AUTOMOBILE INS. CO. of HARTFORD, CT., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Christopher and Ngozi Azoroh (“Plaintiffs”) own a rental property located at 133 Longfellow Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. First Am. Compl. (“Am. Compl.”), ECF No. 13 ¶ 1. Plaintiffs allege that their property was damaged by a windstorm in 2011. Id. ¶ 15. The Automobile Insurance Company of Hartford Connecticut (“Hartford” or “Defendant”) insured Plaintiffs’ property. Id. ¶ 8.[1] Hartford denied Plaintiffs’ claim in January 2012 and Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit in October 2014 alleging the denial constituted breach of contract and breach of the implied obligation of good faith and fair dealing. Id. at ¶¶ 19, 25-33. On February 23, 2015, Defendant filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, arguing that (a) there is no coverage obligation because the damages suffered by Plaintiffs were not caused by a peril insured by the policy; (b) there is no coverage obligation under the policy because the Plaintiffs failed to comply with the two-year suit limitation provision; and (c) there was no breach of any covenant of good faith and fair dealing because Hartford did not breach any of the provisions, terms or conditions of the policy. Def.’s Mem. Supp., ECF No. 15-2 at 1-8.[2] Upon consideration of the Motion, the response and reply thereto, and for reasons discussed below, the Defendant’s Motion is GRANTED.

         II. Background

         Plaintiffs leased apartments on three floors of their property under the “Section 8” program, which is supervised by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) and the District of Columbia Housing Authority (“DCHA”). Id. ¶ 12. Pursuant to the HUD/DCHA requirements, Plaintiffs’ property was inspected by the government in June 2011 and received a passing grade. Id. ¶ 14.

         On September 8, 2011, a windstorm moved through the D.C. Area. Id. ¶ 15. Plaintiffs immediately submitted a claim to Hartford, reporting damage to their property that they believed was caused by the storm. Id. Defendant’s claims’ adjuster Deanna Carroll (“Ms. Carroll”) concluded that the “significant water and mold damage on all three levels of [Plaintiffs’] rental property” was the result of “wear and tear” and “splits in the roof membrane that occurred over a period of time.” Id. ¶ 20. Ms. Carrol denied Plaintiffs’ claim as excluded under Section 1 of the policy, which states:

Windstorm or hail. This peril does not include loss to the inside of a building or the property contained in a building caused by rain, snow, sand or dust unless the direct force of wind or hail damages the building, causing an opening in a roof or wall and the rain, snow, sleet, sand or dust enters through this opening.

Id. (citing Hartford denial letter, dated January 4, 2012) (emphasis added).

         In June 2014, Plaintiffs hired an engineer to complete an inspection of the damaged property. Id. ¶ 16. The engineer concluded that the damage to the roof and roof sheathing “was most likely caused by a pointed instrument being pushed up against the sheathing from the interior.” Id. ¶ 17. Plaintiffs allege that “no indication or evidence exist[s], which indicates that the said actions of this unknown third-party person were done for purposes of vandalism or mischief, nor can Defendant [] prove or show any such malicious intent by said unknown third-party.” Id. ¶ 18.

         III. Standard of Review

         a. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

A Rule 12(c) motion is “functionally equivalent” to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss and governed by the same standard. Rollins v. Wachenhut Servs., Inc., 703 F.3d 122, 130 (D.C. Cir. 2012). A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) “tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint.” Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). While detailed factual allegations are not necessary, plaintiff must plead enough facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id.

         “The court is limited to considering acts alleged in the complaint, and documents attached to or incorporated by reference in the complaint, matters of which the court may take judicial notice, and matters of public record.” Maniaci v. Georgetown Univ., 510 F.Supp.2d 50, 59 (D.D.C. 2007). The Court must construe the complaint liberally in plaintiff's favor and grant plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences deriving from the complaint. Kowal v. MCI Commc’ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). However, the Court must not accept plaintiff's inferences that are “unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint.” Id. “Nor must the court accept legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations.” Id. “[O]nly a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         IV. ...


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