from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, James
S. Heckerman, Judge.
plaintiffs appeal from the district court's summary
dismissal of their lawsuit against their insurance company
for breach of the insurance contract and coverage based on
the doctrine of reasonable expectations.
T. Glaser of Peters Law Firm, PC, Council Bluffs, for
Douglas L. Phillips of Klass Law Firm, LLP, Sioux City, for
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.
POTTERFIELD, PRESIDING JUDGE.
and Megan Steeve appeal from the district court's summary
dismissal of their lawsuit against IMT Insurance Company for
breach of their insurance contract and coverage based on the
doctrine of reasonable expectations. Under their
breach-of-contract-claim, the Steeves argue the phrase
"human force" is ambiguous and thus must be
construed against IMT; there is a genuine issue of material
fact regarding whether the plumbing failure was caused by
"human forces"; and because there is a genuine
issue of material fact regarding causation, this issue is not
appropriate for summary judgment. Additionally, the Steeves
maintain the district court erred in its refusal to apply the
doctrine of reasonable expectations to their loss.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
Steeves purchased a home in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in June
2015. They purchased insurance coverage for the home through
Thursday, September 24, the area near the Steeves' home
received approximately six inches of rainfall. The next
morning, the Steeves noticed a loss of water pressure in
their home. That same day, the area received another one and
one-half inch of rainfall.
September 27, after receiving some advice from friends
regarding the reduced water pressure, Chuck began digging
near their water well looking for a possible break in the
water line. He located a broken pipe approximately six and
one-half feet below the surface of the ground. The leaking
water had caused the soil to erode, leaving a
"cavern" approximately six feet in diameter.
days later, when Chuck came home from work, he noticed bricks
were falling off the front of the home. The garage door
appeared to be hanging at an angle and would not open. After
walking around the home, Chuck noticed a crack in the
home's foundation and an area of the roof that appeared
to be separating from the rest of the home. The Steeves
reported the damage to their insurance agent that night, and
the insurance agent made an official claim on their behalf on
sent an insurance adjuster to review the damage to the home
on October 2, and a structural engineer visited the property
one week later.
structural engineer filed his first report with the insurance
company on October 19. It opined, "Recent damage from
foundation movements have occurred due to rain storms and
coincident plumbing leak of the insured's well.
Oversaturation of silty soils at the insured's property
led to soil movements and the recent damage listed in
[another section] in this report."
October 27, a representative of IMT contacted the engineer
and asked for "some clarification on the cause of the
settling to this house." Specifically, IMT was
interested in "looking to determine what portion of the
settling, if any, has anything to ...