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Graham v. Republic Fire and Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

August 20, 2019

ERIC GRAHAM AND CAROLINE PRIES GRAHAM
v.
REPUBLIC FIRE AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant American Bankers Insurance of Florida's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 47). Plaintiffs filed an opposition to the motion (Doc. 48). Oral argument is not required. For the reasons stated below, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL HISTORY

         This matter arises from circumstances surrounding the historic flooding that occurred in Baton Rouge in August, 2016. Eric Graham and Caroline Pries Graham claim that their floors were damaged by the floods. (Doc. 1-1 at p. 5). Plaintiffs allege that Republic Fire and Casualty Insurance[1] provided insurance coverage for damages not caused by "flood" and that Bankers[2] provided insurance coverage for damages that were caused by "flood." (Id.). Plaintiffs allege that they notified both Bankers and Republic of the damage and made claims for coverage, but that both companies denied coverage on separate grounds: Bankers claimed it could find no evidence of direct flood damage; Republic claimed the damage was caused by the evaporation of flood water under the floorboards, which constituted flood damage. (Id.). Plaintiffs claim that at the time of the filing of the complaint, the floors had gone unrepaired for ten months because neither company would accept responsibility for covering the damage. (Id.). Plaintiffs bring claims of breach of contract and bad faith against both Republic and Bankers. (Id. at pp. 6-9).

         Bankers claims that Plaintiffs failed to timely file a Proof of Loss affidavit before filing their claim, as required by National Flood Insurance Program. (Doc. 47-1). Therefore, Bankers asserts that it is not statutorily obligated to pay Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to 44 C.F.R. § Pt. 61, App. A(1), Art. VII(J).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "[W]hen a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quotation marks and footnote omitted).

         In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court "view[s] facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in her favor." Coleman v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 113 F.3d 528, 533 (5th Cir. 1997) (citing Brothers v. Klevenhagen, 28 F.3d 452, 455 (5th Cir. 1994)). 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.

         In sum, summary judgment is appropriate if, "after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, [the non-movant] fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Summary judgment will lie 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. 1972).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Bankers claims that it issued Plaintiffs a Standard Flood Insurance Policy ("SFIP"), pursuant to the terms of the "Write Your Own"[3] program promulgated by the National Flood Insurance Program ("NFIP"). (Doc. 47-1 at p. 4). The SFIP as set forth in 44 C.F.R. pt. 61, App. A(1), Art. VII(J) provides in relevant part:

         In case of a flood loss to insured property, you must:

1. Give prompt written notice to us;
2. As soon as reasonably possible, separate the damaged and undamaged property, putting it in the best possible order so ...

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