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Furrow v. Wright National Flood Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 17, 2016

SAMUEL J. FURROW and ANN FURROW, Plaintiffs,
v.
WRIGHT NATIONAL FLOOD INSURANCE COMPANY and UNDERWRITERS AT LLOYD'S LONDON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Patti B. Saris Chief United States District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiffs Samuel and Ann Furrow bring this suit seeking excess flood insurance coverage for the loss of their vacation home after a storm in March of 2013 in the Town of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Plaintiffs allege the loss qualifies as a “flood” under the “erosion” prong of their Standard Flood Insurance Policy (“SFIP”). Defendant Underwriters at Lloyd's London (“Lloyd's”), the excess insurer, asserts that the loss was not covered because the cause of the loss was gradual erosion of a sandy bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, which was a specifically excluded cause of loss under the policy.

         Both parties moved for summary judgment. After hearing, Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 61) and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 58) are DENIED.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The facts below are taken from the record, and are undisputed except where stated.

         I. The Policy

         Plaintiffs Samuel and Ann Furrow purchased their summer home in Nantucket in July 2003. The home is located at 87 Baxter Road atop a 75-foot bluff on the easternmost portion of the island of Nantucket. When the home was purchased in 2003, the home was over 50 feet away from the bluff.

         Due to erosion rates at the bluff, Plaintiffs knew it might become necessary to move their house away from the bluff at some point in the future. By 2007, the bluff had moved to within 20 feet of the home, so Plaintiffs moved the house closer to the road and away from the bluff. After the move, the home was about 60 feet away from the bluff.

         Plaintiffs purchased insurance for their home. In addition to standard home insurance, Plaintiffs also purchased primary and excess flood insurance. For the policy period from February 12, 2013 to February 12, 2014, Plaintiffs had two flood insurance policies - a primary policy issued by Wright National Flood Insurance Company[1] with limits of $250, 000; and an excess policy with additional limits of $1, 450, 000 sold by Lloyd's. The scope of the coverage under the excess flood policy is governed by the SFIP, issued pursuant to the National Flood Insurance Program Act (“NFIP”), 42 U.S.C. § 4001 et seq. The SFIP provides for the following coverage: “We will pay you for direct physical loss or damage by or from flood to your insured property.” The SFIP defines “flood”:

A. . . . Flood, as used in this flood insurance policy, means:
1. A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties (at least one of which is your property) from:
a. Overflow of inland or tidal waters;
b. Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source;
c. Mudflow;
2. Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined in A.1.a. above.

         Standard Flood Insurance Policy section II.A..

         Certain causes of damage are explicitly ...


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