United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
ERIC GRAHAM ET AL.
REPUBLIC FIRE AND CASUAL INSURANCE COMPANY ET AL.
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 29) filed
by Defendant Republic Fire and Casualty Insurance Company
("Republic") and the Cross Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. 32) filed by Plaintiffs Caroline Graham and
Eric Graham ("Plaintiffs"). For the reasons
explained herein, the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 29)
is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED, without prejudice, IN PART.
The Cross Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 32) is DENIED,
reside in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in a home constructed on
piers and beams with crawl spaces underneath. (Doc. 32-2 at
p. 3) Between August 12 and August 14 of 2016, East Baton
Rouge Parish experienced unprecedented rainfall and flooding.
(Doc. 32-2 at p. 3). During this time period, Plaintiffs
possessed a homeowners insurance policy with Republic and a
flood insurance policy with American Bankers Insurance
Company of Florida ("American Bankers"). (Doc. 32-2
at pp. 1-2)
flood insurance policy was a Standard Flood Insurance Policy
("SFIP") provided by American Bankers under the
National Flood Insurance Program ("NFIP"). Congress
created the NFIP pursuant to the National Flood Insurance Act
("NFIA") of 1968. (Doc. 16-1 at p. 2) The NFIP
allows an individual to purchase a Standard Flood Insurance
Policy ("SFIP") either directly from the Federal
Emergency Management Agency ("FEMA") or from
private insurance companies. (Id. at 3) These
private insurance companies are known as "Write Your
Own" ("WYO") carriers and are authorized by
federal regulation to sell SFIPs under their own names.
(Id.) The terms of an SFIP are standardized and
codified in the federal regulations. 44 C.F.R. pt.61, app.
A(1). As such, all flood insurance policies issued by WYO
companies, including American Bankers, are identical to the
SFIP. (Doc. 16-1 at p. 3)
assert that during the August 2016 rainfall, surface water
accumulated underneath their home. On or about August 21,
2016, the original wood floors in Plaintiffs' home
allegedly began to buckle, which resulted in warped floors
rising over five inches in certain locations. (Id.)
Plaintiffs claim that on or about September 2, 2016, they
timely notified both American Bankers and Republic. (Doc. 1-1
at p. 5)
Bankers denied Plaintiffs' claim because its
investigation did not "identify evidence of a general
condition of flood, nor direct flood damage to their
home." (Id.) The SFIP only covers "direct
physical loss by or from flood." (Doc. 32-8 at p. 8) The
policy defines "flood" as "a general and
temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two
or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more
properties (one of which is the insured's) from ...
unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters
from any source." (Id. at 4) Plaintiffs
appealed American Bankers' decision to FEMA, which denied
their claim on the same basis. (Id.)
also denied Plaintiffs coverage; however it did so for the
opposite reason. Republic asserted that the damage resulted
from "high moisture levels from flood or surface
water" beneath the home. (Id.) Republic's
policy excludes "loss caused directly or indirectly by.
. . water." (Doc. 32-6 at p. 14) Water includes
"flood [and] surface water." (Id.)
American Bankers and Republic denied Plaintiffs' claim,
Plaintiffs sued both insurance companies for breach of
contract and violations of Louisiana bad faith insurance
statutes. (Doc. 1-1 at p. 8)
to Rule 56, "[t]he [C]ourt shall grant summary judgment
if the movant 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). In determining
whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court
views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant
and draws all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's
favor. Coleman v. Houston Independent School Dist,
113 F.3d 528, 533 (5th Cir. 1997).
proper motion for summary judgment is made, the non-movant
must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine
issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). At this stage, the Court does not
evaluate the credibility of witnesses, weigh the evidence, or
resolve factual disputes. Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v.
Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991),
cert, denied, 502 U.S. 1059 (1992). However, if the evidence
in the record is such that a reasonable jury, drawing all
inferences in favor of the non-moving party, could arrive at
a verdict in that party's favor, the motion for summary
judgment must be denied. Int'l Shortstop, Inc.,
939 F.2d at 1263.
other hand, the non-movant's burden is not satisfied by
some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, or by
conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or a mere
scintilla of evidence. Little v. Liquid Air Corp.,
37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). Summary judgment is
appropriate if the non-movant "fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case." Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). In other words,
summary judgment will he only "if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with affidavits if any, show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Sherman v. Hallbauer, 455 F.2d 1236, 1241 (5th Cir.