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Park Ridge Presbyterian Church v. American States Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 17, 2014



JOAN H. LEFKOW, District Judge.

After Plaintiff Park Ridge Presbyterian Church ("PRPC" or "the Church") experienced massive water damage in July 2010, its insurance carrier, American States Insurance Company ("ASIC"), denied coverage. PRPC filed suit against ASIC for breach of contract and violations of the Illinois Insurance Code. ASIC filed a counterclaim for a declaratory judgment that the causes of loss are excluded from PRPC's coverage. The dispute turns on what is clearly a question of fact: what caused the damage at the Church? Regardless, the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. (Dkts. 64, 68.) The parties' respective motions are denied, although the court herein circumscribes the issues for trial in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(g).[1]


Summary judgment obviates the need for a trial where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). To determine whether any genuine fact issue exists, the court must pierce the pleadings and assess the proof as presented in depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits that are part of the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In doing so, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). When considering cross-motions for summary judgment, the court must be careful to draw reasonable inferences in the correct direction. See, e.g., Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, Local 176 v. Balmoral Racing Club, Inc., 293 F.3d 402, 404 (7th Cir. 2002). The court may not weigh conflicting evidence or make credibility determinations. Omnicare, Inc. v. UnitedHealth Grp., Inc., 629 F.3d 697, 704 (7th Cir. 2011).

If a claim or defense is factually unsupported, it should be disposed of on summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of proving there is no genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. In response, the non-moving party cannot rest on bare pleadings alone but must designate specific material facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324; Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598 (7th Cir. 2000).


I. The Church Structure

PRPC has three buildings on its property, one on the west end, one on the south end ("the South Sanctuary"), and one on the north end ("the North Building"). Both the South Sanctuary and the North Building have "light well walkways" adjacent to some of the exterior walls of their basements. One wall of the walkways is formed by the basement wall and the other is a concrete wall at least ten feet high facing the building. The buildings have downspouts from the roof gutters that drain into the light wells, where storm drains are embedded. The buildings contain other architectural features to deal with water, such as weep holes in the exterior walls of some of the light well walkways to relieve hydrostatic pressure.[3] In addition, the storm drains in the walkways flow into basins under the boiler room in the South Sanctuary's basement. The basement also contains a floor drain in the boiler room, recessed floor urinals, and showers with a four inch shower pan. The showers lead to the storm drain system. Electric pumps pump water from the basins into a sewage ejector well that flows into the city sewers.

II. The Insurance Policy

ASIC issued PRPC an insurance policy covering events occurring from October 1, 2009 through October 1, 2010 ("the Policy"). Section B of the Policy is an exclusion section that lists the types of damage excluded from coverage (including certain types of water damage). The preamble to the exclusion contains an "anti-concurrent clause, " which states,


B. Exclusions

1. We will not pay for loss or damage caused directly or indirectly by any of the following. Such loss or damage is excluded regardless of any other cause or event that contributes concurrently or in any sequence to the loss.

(Dkt. 67, ex. 8 at 2.) Section B.1.g of the policy dealt with excluded types of water damage, and this exclusion was modified by an endorsement. (Together, the endorsement and insurance policy shall be referred to as "the Policy.") As modified, the water exclusion section reads,


(1) Flood, surface water, waves (including tidal wave and tsunami), tides, tidal water, overflow of any body of water, or spray from any of these, all whether or not driven by wind (including storm surge);
(2) Mudslide or mudflow;
(3) Water that backs up or overflows or is otherwise discharged from a sewer, drain, sump, sump pump or related equipment;
(4) Water under the ground surface pressing on, or flowing or ...

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