United States District Court, D. Maryland
RICHARD KURLAND, ET AL.
ACE AMERICAN INSURANCE CO., ET AL.
K. Bredar United States District Judge
and Marti Kurland ("Plaintiffs") have sued ACE
American Insurance Company ("ACE") and Bankers
Standard Insurance Company ("Bankers Standard")
("Defendants"). alleging breach of contract. Now
pending is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. The
issues have been briefed and no hearing is necessary.
See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the
following reasons, the motion will be granted in part and
denied in part.
Standard issued an insurance policy to Plaintiffs, effective
from June 1. 2014. to June 1. 2015. that insured their
residence and personal property at 10 Spring Forest Court in
Owings Mills. Maryland. (ECF No. 29-3). The policy is an
"all-risk" policy, meaning it covers all perils
except those specifically excluded. (Id. at 26: ECF
No. 1 at 4). Plaintiffs purchased the insured residence in
2011 and lived there with their two minor children. (ECF No.
32 at 2).
the coverage period. Plaintiffs discovered the residence was
sustaining water damage, partly due to a leaky roof. (ECF No.
1 at 4; ECF No. 35 at 6). This water damage also caused mold
to grow, including inside the HVAC system. (ECF No. 1 at 4;
ECF No. 29-1 at 3).
personal property was also damaged by water and mold. (ECF
No. 32 at 3). After mold was detected inside the residence in
March 2015. (ECF No. 1 at 4-5: ECF No. 1-2), Plaintiffs
permanently vacated the residence on April 22. 2015, (ECF No.
32 at 3). They lived in an apartment complex and hotel room
before permanently relocating. (Id.).
receiving a claim from Plaintiffs pursuant to the insurance
policy. Defendants inspected the residence on April 20. 2015.
(ECF No. 32 at 4: ECF No. 35-1 at 1). On May 12. 2015.
Defendants issued a check to Plaintiffs for $24, 830.90. in
purported settlement of all covered losses. (ECF No. 32 at 4:
ECF No. 1-3). A document accompanying the check clarified
that this overall amount was comprised of three smaller
sub-payments of $12, 830.90, $10, 000, and $2, 000. and that
a $5, 000 deductible had also been subtracted. It further
clarified that each of these sub-payments was for
"water/mold damage." but did not further elaborate.
(ECF No. 1-3).
that this payment did not reflect the full extent of their
covered losses, Plaintiffs brought this action in federal
court, invoking diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
1332(a)(1). (ECF No. 1 at 3). Defendants moved for summary
judgment. (ECF No. 29), Plaintiffs responded. (ECF No. 32),
and Defendants replied. (FCF No. 35).
court 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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,. 477
U.S. 317. 322 (1986) (citing predecessor to current Rule
56(a)). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate the
absence of any genuine dispute of material tact. Adickes
v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). If
sufficient evidence exists tor a reasonable jury to render a
verdict in favor of the party opposing the motion, then a
genuine dispute of material fact is presented and summary
judgment should be denied. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242. 248 (1986). However. the "mere
existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the
[opposing party's| position" is insufficient to
defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. at 252.
The facts themselves, and the inferences to be drawn from the
underlying facts, must be viewed in the light most favorable
to the opposing party, Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S.
372. 378 (2007); Iko v. Shreve, 535 F.3d 225. 230
(4th Cir. 2008). who may not rest upon the mere allegations
or denials of his pleading but instead must set out specific
facts showing a genuine dispute for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P.
motion for summary judgment raises two broad issues. First.
Defendants claim summary judgment is appropriate with respect
to ACE because ACE "was not a party to any contract of
insurance with Plaintiffs." (FCF No. 29-1 at 8). They
also claim summary judgment is appropriate because no breach
of contract occurred. Each issue will be examined in turn.
Status of ACE as a Party to the Lawsuit
first issue is whether ACE is a proper party. Defendants
claim ACE is not a proper party - and summary judgment should
thus be entered in its favor - because "the terms of the
insurance Policy ... do not identify ACE as a party to the
contract of insurance." (FCF No. 29-1 at 9). The policy
here was issued by Bankers Standard, not ACE. and thus ACE
cannot be held liable for breaching a contract to which it
v\as not a party. Defendants claim. (Id. at 8-9).
concede that the policy lists Bankers Standard as the sole
issuer but claim summary judgment is inappropriate because
"the evidence is less than clear as to the relative
roles ACE and Bankers Standard play in the Policy. the
dispute over coverage, and the payment of the claim."
(ECF No. 32 at 6-7). For instance, they note that
"ACE" is printed on "virtually every
page" of the policy: the policy and accompanying
endorsements are named the "ACE Platinum
Portfolio"; the policy states that Bankers Standard is
"an ACE Group Company": and the check sent to
Plaintiffs in purported settlement of their covered losses
"appears to list "ace group" [sic] as the
payor, and also lists ACE Private Risk Services and Bankers
Standard Insurance Company." Plaintiffs also claim the
only other evidence regarding the relationship between ACE
and Bankers Standard is an "ACE Group Privacy
Statement" noting that the ACE Group of Companies use
the name Bankers Standard Insurance Company. (LI).
Maryland, insurance policies are interpreted in the same
manner as contracts. See Collier v. MD-Individual
Practice Assn.,327 Md. 1, 5 (1992). Absent an
indication the parties intended to use words in a special
sense, policy terms are accorded their "usual, ordinary,
and accepted meaning." Bausch & Lamb.
Inc. v. Utica Mutual Ins. Co.,330 Md. 758. 779 (1993).
And "[c]lear and unambiguous language . .. must be
enforced as written." Catalina Enterprise, Inc.
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