Martin v. Safeco Insurance Co. of America

$24,165 Verdict

Date of Verdict: Nov. 16.

Court and Case No.: C.P. Allegheny County GD-14-016164.

Judge: John T. McVay.

Type of Action:  Insurance coverage.

Injuries: Property damage.

Plaintiffs Counsel: Bruce H. Gelman, Law Offices of Bruce H. Gelman, Pittsburgh.

Defense Counsel:  Edward A. Schenck, Cipriani & Werner, Pittsburgh.


On Sept. 10, 2013, plaintiff Martha Martin discovered water damage to her home, on Lafferty Ave., in Pittsburgh. She found that a toilet had leaked, causing a significant amount of water to flood in her house. She had been away from her home since April of that year. The water allegedly damaged ceilings, walls, carpeting and personal property.

Martin filed a claim under her homeowner’s insurance policy with Safeco Insurance Co. of America. The insurer dispatched a subcontractor to evaluate the home’s damages. Damages were estimated at $26,782.62, which was paid by Safeco.

Martin asserted that Safeco’s repair estimates did not adequately cover the repairs needed to her home. She claimed that her home had been uninhabitable since the date of the loss.

Martin sued Safeco, alleging claims of breach of contract and bad faith. The bad-faith claim was dismissed prior to trial, and the case proceeded to trial on the issues of breach of contract and damages.

Martin went to live with her daughter, in Georgia, because her own home was uninhabitable.


Martin’s dwelling-loss expert determined that she had sustained about $40,000 in dwelling damages, significantly more than what already had been paid by Safeco. According to the expert, the home needed new hardwood floors in two bedrooms and the dining room, and new ceilings and walls in the living and dining rooms, which had to be gutted.

Martin contended that she sustained another $87,000 in losses, which she itemized as $30,000 for furniture, $40,000 for clothing, and $17,000 for jewelry.

Safeco questioned the legitimacy of Martin’s claim for $87,000, since she did not present the claim until two years after the water damage.

Safeco’s own adjuster testified that the $26,782.62 which with the company had compensated Martin for her dwelling losses was appropriate. The adjuster disputed Martin’s claim that the plaster on the walls and ceilings in the living and dining rooms needed to be replaced, because when Safeco initially inspected the home, the plaster was dry and structurally sound.

Safeco’s expert in furniture opined that the water damage to Martin’s furniture amounted to $2,800.

Martin was determined to receive $24,165. This amount included $13,165 for personal property damages, $10,000 for dwelling repairs, and $1,500 for loss of use of the property. The $24,165 was reduced by the jury by a $500 deductible.

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs and defense counsel.

–This report first appeared in VerdictSearch, an ALM publication.