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Physical Distance and Adjoining Properties (PA)

March 4, 2022

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On March 2, 2022, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in<em> <a href="">Daisy</a> Larcena Walker v. Foremost Insurance Company Grand Rapids, Michigan and Debra Elaine Tucker</em>, granted Foremost Insurance Company Grand Rapids, Michigan (“Formeost”) and Debra Elaine Tucker’s (“Tucker”) motion for summary judgment in an insurance coverage dispute.
<p style="text-align: justify;">By way of brief background, the plaintiff, Daisy Larcena Walker (“Walker”), owns a single-family home, which she rents out to tenants. Foremost issued a Dwelling Fire Three Policy Landlord to Walker. In October 2019, a branch from a tree located on Walker’s property fell on Walker’s property and the adjourning property. The owner of the neighboring property claimed the fallen tree branch caused damage to her property. Walker and the neighbor requested coverage and in response, Foremost disclaimed coverage. The neighbor was insured by State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (“State Farm”) – State Farm covered the majority of damages.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Subsequently, the neighbor filed a lawsuit against Walker. This matter settled; however, Foremost declined to reimburse Walker for the settlement and costs of defense stating the policy did not provide coverage for the loss. State Farm then demanded subrogation form Walker for the monies paid by State Farm to resolve the neighbor’s claim. After seeking coverage from Foremost with respect to the State Farm action, Foremost agreed to defend Walker pursuant to a reservation of rights.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Foremost filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a declaration of no coverage. Based on the policy language and the location where the damage occurred, the court granted Foremost’s motion declaring the policy did not provide coverage to Walker. Walker argued the policy covered the damage to the neighbor’s property since the policy term “your premises” is extended to include the neighboring property as it is “adjacent to” an “other structure”. The court disagreed.</p>
The court first held Walker failed to set forth evidence allowing a reasonable jury to find in Walker’s favor regarding the location of the fence. Second, the court held the location of the fence did not impact whether there was coverage because the fence did not constitute an “other structure” as defined by the policy. The court also held the tree did not constitute an “other structure” under the policy’s definition of “premises”. In addition, the court held the dwelling on the insured property is not “immediately adjoining” the area where the tree fell and caused damage. Specifically, the court relied on the plain language of the policy and the fact that ample land and a driveway intervened between the dwelling and the location where the damage occurred.

Thanks to Lauren Berenbaum for her contribution to this post. Please contact <a href="">Heather Aquino</a> with any questions.

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