A federal district court in Connecticut has rejected a homeowner’s lawsuit against her insurer for damage to her home allegedly caused by a winter storm, finding that she had not provided prompt notice of her loss to her insurer and that she also had initiated her lawsuit too late.
The Case Elaine Discuillo said that a winter storm damaged her home in Oakdale, Connecticut, on or about February 10, 2015. In the spring, she said, a friend applied sealant to the roof around a bathroom skylight, in an unsuccessful attempt to fix a leak purportedly caused by the storm. Ms. Discuillo also said that she tried to spackle or putty certain spots in that bathroom but did not immediately do anything to repair the damage to two upstairs bedrooms.
Ms. Discuillo said that she contacted a contractor in the summer of 2015, but that he did not visit her home until April 2016. Ms. Discuillo said that she “waited” on calling him out to her property because she “thought [she] had to have the deductible for [her] insurance policy and money for [the contractor]” and “had to save up.”
Ms. Discuillo first filed an insurance claim with Allstate Insurance Company, her homeowner’s insurance carrier, on April 26, 2016. An Allstate adjuster inspected the property on May 13, 2016 and June 2, 2016. Noting some limited staining consistent with prior ice damming along the exterior walls of some of the rooms, the adjuster estimated a $9,077.36 repair cost. After applying the recoverable depreciation and the policy’s deductible, the adjuster issued Ms. Discuillo a check for $4,591.64.
Ms. Discuillo sued Allstate in January 2017, and it moved for summary judgment.
The District Court’s Decision The district court granted the motion. In its decision, the district court explained that the Allstate policy required any suit or action on the policy to be commenced “within eighteen months after the inception of loss or damage.” Because Ms. Discuillo identified the date on which her home was damaged as on or about February 10, 2015 and she did not sue Allstate until January 2017, the district court found that her suit “was commenced well beyond the contractual limitations period.”
The district court noted that Ms. Discuillo offered “no valid excuse for her delay,” and it concluded that her action was “not timely” and was “barred under the terms of the policy.” The district court also decided that Ms. Discuillo had violated the policy’s notice provision, which required that she notify Allstate “promptly” in the event of a loss.
The district court found that although the policy did not explicitly define “prompt” or “promptly,” the term was not ambiguous, and it ruled that the 14 months it took Ms. Discuillo to notify Allstate after her loss was not prompt notice.
Finding that Ms. Discuillo’s “significant delay” in notifying Allstate deprived the insurer of the opportunity to promptly inspect the property, assess the then-existing damage, and repair the damage so as to avoid further loss, the district court concluded that Ms. Discuillo’s delayed notice precluded her action against Allstate and that Allstate was entitled to summary judgment in its favor on this basis, as well.
The case is Discuillo v. Allstate Ins. Co., No. 3:17-CV-234 (KAD) (D. Conn. Feb. 8, 2019). Attorneys involved include: For Elaine Discuillo, Plaintiff: T.J. Morelli-Wolfe, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law office of T.J. Morelli-Wolfe, P.C., Norwich, CT. For Allstate Insurance Company, Defendant: Josiah T.D. Butts, LEAD ATTORNEY, Robinson & Cole, LLP-HTFD, Hartford, CT; Raymond T. Demeo, Robinson & Cole, Hartford, CT.
Steven A. Meyerowitz, Esq., is the Director of FC&S Legal, the Editor-in-Chief of the Insurance Coverage Law Report, and the founder and president of Meyerowitz Communications Inc.