Court Finds No Coverage for Loss Caused by Water Back Up Through a Storm Drain


In Carrico v. Stillwater Ins. Co., 23-CV-349-RAJ, 2024 WL 308106 (W.D. Wash. Jan. 26, 2024), the Western District of Washington thought-about competing motions for partial abstract judgment in a property injury case involving a winter storm, the place giant quantities of rain and melted snow backed the drain up and the drive of the water pushed via the outside door inflicting injury to the complete basement stage. At concern within the case was the applying of the coverage’s put on and tear exclusion and its exceptions. 

The insurance coverage coverage lined direct bodily loss however contained an exclusion for bodily injury brought on by put on and tear, marring or deterioration. The put on and tear exclusion included sure exceptions, which, if relevant, would reinstate protection.  Specifically, the exclusion contained exceptions for: (1) discharge or overflow from storm drains, water, steam, or sewer pipes which are off of the residence premises; and (2) discharge or overflow from plumbing, heating, air-con, or different related programs on the residence premises. The coverage expressly excluded water injury brought on by “surface water … all whether or not driven by wind, including storm surge” and water which “[b]acks up through sewers or drains.” The Limited Water Back-up and Sump Discharge Or Overflow Coverage endorsement added again restricted protection for water which “[b]acks up through sewers or drains” as much as a $5,000 sublimit.

The defendant, Stillwater Insurance Company (“Stillwater”) decided there was protection below the Limited Water Back Up and Sump Discharge or Overflow Coverage endorsement and issued fee of the complete $5,000 sublimit of that endorsement, along with a letter to the insureds explaining its protection evaluation. The insureds employed a plumber who decided that put on and tear to a drain lure close to their basement door brought about the drain to change into inoperable and demanded the complete coverage limits, in the end submitting swimsuit towards Stillwater for Breach of Contract, Insurance Bad Faith, Violation of the Consumer Protection Act (“CPA”), and Violation of the Insurance Fair Conduct Act (“IFCA”).

The Court was tasked with adjudicating competing motions for partial abstract judgment. The insureds filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on their declaratory judgment, breach of contract, and CPA claims and Stillwater filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to breach of contract declare.

The insureds contended that the loss resulted from put on and tear to a plumbing system, falling below the exception to the damage and tear exclusion within the coverage. The insureds tried to outline “plumbing system” broadly to incorporate the drain lure, utilizing the Uniform Plumbing Code and the deposition testimony of Stillwater’s adjuster. The insureds additionally sought partial abstract judgment on their CPA claims, alleging violations of rules akin to failure to pay claims with out affordable investigation, failure to reveal coverage advantages coverages and coverage provisions, failure to supply an affordable clarification for denial, and improper denial of claims below particular coverage provisions or exclusions.

Stillwater maintained that the exception to the damage and tear exclusion didn’t apply on this case. Relying on the bizarre, dictionary which means of “plumbing system” drain, Stillwater argued that the drain was designed to maintain rainwater exterior the home and didn’t concern the distribution or use of water throughout the insureds’ residence.

In contemplating the respective motions for partial abstract judgment, the Court discovered that there was no protection below the exceptions to the damage and tear exclusion. The first exception to the damage and tear exclusion wouldn’t apply as a result of the loss occurred on the residence premises. There was additionally no foundation for concluding that the water injury resulted from an overflow from a “plumbing system,” below the second exception.  The Court emphasised that undefined phrases in insurance coverage insurance policies are interpreted primarily based on their bizarre which means or widespread legislation definitions. Consequently, the pipe was discovered to not be part of the home’s “plumbing system” and partial abstract judgment was entered in favor of Stillwater on the insureds’ breach of contract declare.

Regarding the insureds’ CPA claims, given the proof offered, the Court decided that Stillwater’s actions didn’t violate related rules. Stillwater supplied the insureds with a abstract of the coverages obtainable within the coverage and defined that protection was being prolonged below the coverage’s endorsement as much as the obtainable sublimit. Therefore, the Court denied the insureds’ movement for partial abstract judgment on the CPA claims.


This choice underscores the significance of clear coverage language. Though the consequence was favorable to the insurer, the case nonetheless makes clear that insurers ought to try and outline coverage phrases, the place practicable. For instance, the inclusion of the definition of the time period “plumbing system,” may have prevented conflicting coverage interpretations. Additionally, the case is an efficient instance of the significance of clear communication and transparency with policyholders relating to protection interpretations to mitigate potential disputes and guarantee compliance with regulatory requirements.

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