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Sleister v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 7, 2019

DARREN SLEISTER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, David May, Judge.

         Darren Sleister appeals from the district court's orders granting the defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on his breach-of-contract claim and dismissing his bad-faith claim.

          Kenneth R. Munro of Munro Law Office, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Guy Cook and Adam Zenor of Grefe & Sidney, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and Greer, JJ. May, J., takes no part.

          GREER, JUDGE.

         In 2016, Darren Sleister entered into a "house flipping" venture with Georgios Symeonidis after seeing Symeonidis's property listing. Under their agreement, Symeonidis would own the property and act as general contractor during the rehab, Sleister would pay for labor and materials, and Sleister would retain the net proceeds from the sale of the fully-remodeled property. On July 19, Symeonidis purchased homeowner's insurance for the property with $100, 800 in dwelling coverage from State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (State Farm). Symeonidis was the named insured as the property owner, and Sleister was named as an additional insured.[1] A State Farm underwriting representative took photographs of the property on July 29, showing the condition of the home to be extremely poor. A municipal sign posted on the door declared the property a public nuisance unsafe or unfit for human occupancy.

         Symeonidis hired a subcontractor to work on the roof, and Sleister expected the subcontractor would only remove and replace the shingles and sheathing. On August 10, the subcontractor removed the entire roof, including the trusses, leaving the exposed home without a tarp or other protection from the elements. A rainstorm began later that day, dumping water into the now-roofless structure and destroying the interior of the home.

         On August 11, State Farm was notified of the property damage. A claims specialist did not inspect the property until August 25. By that time, most of the internal walls and flooring of the home had been removed. The claims specialist took photographs of the property, but he was unable to confirm what damage was attributable to the rainstorm. Sleister maintains that because State Farm waited weeks from the date of the damage to inspect the property, the walls and floors of the home deteriorated to the extent that they had to be removed before the inspection; however, the materials remained piled around the property or in the dumpster on site.

         On September 13, State Farm sent Symeonidis a letter denying coverage under the policy, stating, "We are denying coverage for this claim based [on] your failure to comply with the conditions of the policy. You have a duty under the policy to allow us to inspect the damage prior to the demolition or commencement of repairs."

         The policy requires the following duties of the insured after a loss:

a. give immediate notice to us or our agent. . . .; Also notify the police if the loss is caused by theft. Also notify the credit card company or bank if the loss involves a credit card or bank fund transfer card;
b. protect the property from further damage or loss, make reasonable and necessary temporary repairs required to protect the property, keep an accurate record of repair expenditures;
c. prepare an inventory of damaged or stolen personal property. Show in detail the quantity, description, age, replacement cost and amount of loss. Attach to the inventory all bills, receipts and related ...

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