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Murphy v. Patriot Ins. Co.

Supreme Court of Vermont

August 14, 2014

Helena G. Murphy
v.
Patriot Insurance Company

Page 912

Editorial Note:

This Opinion is subject to motion for reargument or formal revision before publication. See V.R.A.P. 40

On Appeal from Superior Court, Caledonia Unit, Civil Division. Howard E. Van Benthuysen and M. Kathleen Manley, JJ. (partial summary judgments) Mary Miles Teachout, J. (final judgment).

Affirmed.

Todd C. Steadman of Davis Steadman & Ford LLC, White River Junction, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Jeffrey S. Marlin of Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC, Montpelier, for Defendant-Appellee.

Present: Reiber, C.J., Dooley, Skoglund, Robinson and Crawford, JJ.

OPINION

Page 913

Dooley, J.

[¶1] Plaintiff Helena Murphy appeals from a superior court judgment in favor of defendant, Patriot Insurance Company, her homeowner's insurer. She contends that: (1) Patriot was estopped from denying coverage for the removal and replacement of a chimney on her home; and (2) the trial court erred in dismissing claims for negligence and bad faith. We affirm.

[¶2] Except where otherwise noted, the material facts are undisputed and may be summarized as follows. In late July 2007, plaintiff reported to Patriot that a recent storm had caused damage to the flashing on her roof, allowing water to enter the house. Patriot engaged a claims adjuster to investigate the claim, who went to the property four days after the report. Plaintiff and the adjuster walked around the house inspecting the damage. The adjuster observed damage to the garage and ceiling of an enclosed porch and dampness in the finished portion of the basement. He went up on the roof, but observed " no exterior damage due to wind," and no damage to the flashing on the roof around the rear chimney[1] or holes in the roof. The adjuster acknowledged that he did not consider that flashing might have been torn off during the storm, nor did he inspect the front chimney. In his claims report, the adjuster acknowledged that the insured showed him certain damage from the storm, including heavy rain that had purportedly " flooded the driveway and infiltrated the foundation causing water damage to [the] contents ... of the basement."

[¶3] In August 2007, Patriot paid plaintiff a total of $3,553.05[2] for wind and water damage to her home. The following month, plaintiff filed an additional claim with Patriot after a worker discovered damage from rot resulting from water infiltration near the front chimney. The adjuster returned to inspect the property, and Patriot initially paid plaintiff an additional $845 on this claim, after ...


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