United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT
G. COOKE United States District Judge.
parties in this action dispute certain insurance policy
language related to water damage coverage. Petitioners Ken
and Michelle Cameron (“Petitioners”) seek a
judicial declaration of their rights under an insurance
policy issued by Respondent Scottsdale Insurance Company
me is Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment
(“Motion”) (ECF No. 13). I have reviewed the
parties' filings, the record, and the relevant legal
authorities. For the reasons set out below, I grant
collapsed in the internal plumbing system of Petitioners'
apartment complex that caused water and property damage to
the premises. ECF No. 1-2 at 3. The pipe was identified after
a tenant reported an overflow of water from a drain in their
kitchen sink. ECF No. 14-1 at 3. Petitioners' plumber
described the damage as an “acute pipe failure”
arising from an “abrupt cessation of normal
operation” of the collapsed pipe. ECF No. 15-1 at 3.
The plumber ultimately had to break the concrete floor slab
in an apartment unit to access and repair the pipe. ECF Nos.
14-1 at 3, 15-1 at 3. Respondent and Petitioners' Trust
had previously entered into a commercial property insurance
contract (“Policy”) that was in effect at the
time of the incident. ECF No. 1-2 at 3. Respondent
investigated the damaged property and refused to cover the
loss based on the Policy's exclusions. Id. at 3
- 4. Petitioners believe the exclusions, if applicable, do
not apply to water overflows originating from the internal
Policy provisions are relevant here. For one, the Policy
notes that certain property is never covered, including
“Underground pipes, flues or drains.” ECF No. 7-1
at 55. Further, the Policy generally excludes coverage for
damages arising from “Wear and tear . . . [or] Rust or
other corrosion, decay, deterioration, hidden or latent
defect or any quality in property that causes it to damage or
destroy itself.” Id. at 91. But this exclusion
excepts damages resulting from a “specified cause of
loss, ” id., like “water damage.”
Id. at 98. The Policy defines “water
damage” to include “[a]ccidental discharge or
leakage of water or stream as the direct result of the
breaking apart or cracking of a plumbing . . . or other
system . . . that is located on the described premises and
contains water or steam.” Id. At the same
time, a Water Exclusion Endorsement (“WEE”)
prevents payment for water damage resulting from, among other
things, “Water that backs up or overflows or is
otherwise discharged from a sewer, drain, sump, sump pump, or
related equipment.” Id. at 99.
judgment is appropriate when “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). The function of the trial court is not
“to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 249 - 50 (1986). “The court need consider
only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials
in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).
moving party bears the initial burden to show the district
court . . . that there is no genuine issue of material fact
that should be decided at trial. Clark v. Coats &
Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). If the
moving party meets this burden, then the non-moving party
must “demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue
of fact that precludes summary judgment.” Id.
Any inferences drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed
in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott
v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).
law mandates that insurance contracts be construed under
their plain meaning, without need for extrinsic evidence.
See Taurus Holdings, Inc. v. U.S. Fid. & Guar.
Co., 913 So.2d 528, 532 (Fla. 2005). “If the
relevant policy language is susceptible to more than one
reasonable interpretation, one providing coverage and another
limiting coverage, the insurance policy is considered
ambiguous, ” and the ambiguity is “construed
against the drafter and in favor of the insured.”
Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Anderson, 756 So.2d 29, 34
(Fla. 2000). But “[a] provision is not ambiguous simply
because it is complex or requires analysis.” Garcia
v. Fed. Ins. Co., 969 So.2d 288, 291 (Fla. 2007). In
fact, “if a policy provision is clear and unambiguous,
it should be enforced according to its terms whether it is a
basic policy provision or an exclusionary provision.”
Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).
dispute the scope of the WEE, which excludes from coverage
“Water that backs up or overflows or is otherwise
discharged from a sewer, drain, sump, sump pump, or related
equipment.” ECF No. 7-1 at 99. Respondent believes the
backup of the Petitioner's plumbing line falls under the
WEE's clear and unambiguous terms. Petitioners retort the
WEE, when read in context of the full Policy, applies to
water backups or overflows deriving outside their
has the better of the argument here. No definition of
“drain” appears in the Policy, but the term
ordinarily refers to a “conduit for draining liquid, as
a ditch or a pipe.” Drain, Black's La w
Dictionary (10th ed. 2014). Though the parties dispute
whether the collapsed pipe was a “sewer” and
refer to the pipe by different names-a “sewer
line” for Respondent, a “sanitary line” for
Petitioners-it was, at the very least, a “drain.”
Parties do not seriously dispute this point or that there was
a back up and overflow from the pipe. More importantly, the WEE
does not differentiate between drains found inside or outside
the Petitioners' property line or their plumbing system.
By its very terms, then, the WEE bars payment for the water
damage and other repairs stemming from the Petitioners'
collapsed and backed up pipe.
result of this case may have differed had another policy
provision specifically covered the overflow of water from the
property's internal plumbing system. See, e.g.,
Cheetham v. S. Oak Ins. Co., 114 So.3d 257, 260, 263
(Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2013) (concluding a policy exclusion for
water damage from sewers and drains did not effect internal
plumbing system leaks since policy specifically covered
overflow of water “from within a plumbing [ ]
system”); see also Old Dominion Ins. Co. v. Elysee,
Inc., 601 So.2d 1243, 1245 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1992)
(citing cases with similar provisions). But no other Policy
provision here, including the water damage exception, limits
the sewer and drain language found in the WEE. See
ECF No. 7-1 at 98 (stating that “water damage
does not include loss or damage otherwise excluded under the
terms of the [WEE]”). To be sure, a state court in
Old Dominion Insurance Company v. Elysee,Inc.,601 So.2d 1243 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1992),
declared “a sewer or drain begins at [a party's]
property line, ” despite no policy provision in that
case that explicitly covered overflows from the
property's internal plumbing system. See Old
Dominion,601 So.2d 1243, 1245 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App.
1992). But I adopt the reasoning from the federal district
court in Killian Palms Country Club and Sports Complex,
LLC v. Scottsdale Insurance Company, No.
11-CIV-21978-UU, ECF No. 49 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 29, 2012), that
scrutinized Old Dominion's findings and involved
a nearly identical insurance policy from ...