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East Iowa Plastics, Inc. v. Hartford Casualty Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 18, 2018

EAST IOWA PLASTICS, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
HARTFORD CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Buchanan County, Joel A. Dalrymple, Judge.

         An insured appeals a ruling granting the insurer's summary judgment motion based upon a policy exclusion. AFFIRMED.

          David W. Hosack of Roberts, Stevens & Prendergast, P.L.L.C., Waterloo, for appellant.

          Peter E. Kanaris and Jefferson D. Patten of Fisher Kanaris, P.C., Chicago, Illinois, pro hac vice, and Martin J. Demoret of Faegre Baker Daniels L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, JUDGE.

         East Iowa Plastics, Inc. (EIP) appeals the district court ruling granting summary judgment to Hartford Casualty Insurance Company (Hartford). On appeal, EIP argues the district court improperly relied on Hartford's statement of undisputed facts.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         In April 2016, EIP filed a petition against Hartford, their insurer, for breach of contract, claiming Hartford failed to compensate EIP in full for damages to their property arising from an incident in April 2014. In April 2014, flooding occurred in the EIP building when the underground fire suppression system became disconnected from the underground water service line. To repair the damage, the floor and an office above the line were excavated, the pipes were reconnected, a portion of the concrete floor was re-poured where the floor was excavated, and a new office was constructed. Hartford paid EIP $25, 543.27 for the repairs. EIP claims Hartford is liable for additional damages to repair another portion of the concrete floor, measuring twenty-five by one hundred feet, which settled a few inches. The insurance policy contains an exclusion for damage caused by earth movement, including settling as a result of water underneath the ground surface.

         Hartford filed a motion for summary judgment in May 2017, arguing the settlement of a portion of the building's concrete floor was caused by soil underneath the floor compacting after water leaked from the underground pipe and the damage was explicitly excluded from coverage in the insurance policy. Hartford argues there is no dispute as to the cause of the damages and that EIP's insurance policy does not cover damages arising from earth movement, including soil conditions caused by water. To support their statement of undisputed facts, Hartford included deposition testimony of Edgar Larson, owner of Larson Construction, the company who constructed the building and repaired the damage to the floors; Shane Solomon, the specific person who excavated the pipe following the event; Jim Ellis, EIP's retained expert engineer; Bret and Jean Kivell, owners of EIP; photos of the damage from EIP; and the insurance policy itself.

         EIP filed a resistance and a statement of material disputed facts. EIP argued "the parties dispute the exact nature of the pipe's failure." EIP argued the insurance policy was ambiguous and the policy provides coverage for the collapse or explosion of a building. EIP filed the following statement of material disputed facts:

1. The foundation of EIP's building is undefined and is a question of fact that should be resolved in favor of the Plaintiff.
2. The concrete slab floor is a part of the ...

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