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Valls v. Allstate Insurance Co.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

April 2, 2019

William A. Valls, Christine C. Valls, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Allstate Insurance Company, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: January 30, 2019

          On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut

         This appeal arises from the multitude of lawsuits filed by Connecticut homeowners whose basement walls were likely constructed with defective concrete manufactured by the now-defunct J.J. Mottes Company-the so-called "crumbling concrete cases." Plaintiffs-Appellants William A. Valls and Christine C. Valls (the "Vallses") appeal from a September 28, 2017 judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Victor A. Bolden, Judge) granting the motion of Defendant-Appellee Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate") to dismiss the Vallses' amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). This case presents a single question: Whether the "collapse" provision in the instant Allstate homeowner's insurance policy affords coverage for basement walls that exhibit significant cracking but remain standing. We conclude that, unfortunate as the Vallses' circumstances may be, their policy terms do not afford coverage. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the District Court's September 28, 2017 judgment.

          Jeffrey R. Lindequist, Law Office of Michael D. Parker, Springfield, MA, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

          Raymond T. DeMeo (Jessica A.R. Hamilton, on the brief), Robinson & Cole LLP, Hartford, CT, for Defendant-Appellee.

          Before: Leval, Cabranes, Parker, Circuit Judges.

          PER CURIAM

         This appeal arises from the multitude of lawsuits filed by Connecticut homeowners whose basement walls were likely constructed with defective concrete manufactured by the now-defunct J.J. Mottes Company-the so-called "crumbling concrete cases." Plaintiffs-Appellants William A. Valls and Christine C. Valls (the "Vallses") appeal from a September 28, 2017 judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Victor A. Bolden, Judge) granting the motion of Defendant-Appellee Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate") to dismiss the Vallses' amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). This case presents a single question: Whether the "collapse" provision in the instant Allstate homeowner's insurance policy affords coverage for basement walls that exhibit significant cracking but remain standing. We conclude that, unfortunate as the Vallses' circumstances may be, their policy terms do not afford coverage. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the District Court's September 28, 2017 judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Vallses own a home in Coventry, Connecticut that is insured by Allstate. In October 2015, the Vallses noticed several horizontal and vertical cracks in their basement walls. While the degree of damage is disputed, it is not disputed that the basement walls remain standing. Accepting the facts plausibly alleged in the complaint, the dispute is whether Allstate's homeowner's insurance Policy (the "Policy") covers the damage the Vallses have alleged.

         The Vallses originally filed this action in state court, and Allstate timely removed the case to the District Court. The amended complaint principally asserts three causes of action against Allstate: (1) breach of contract based on Allstate's denial of coverage under the Policy; (2) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and (3) unfair and deceptive practices in violation of the Connecticut Unfair Insurance Practices Act ("CUIPA"), as enforced through the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act ("CUTPA").

         The Policy is an "all-risk" policy that covers "sudden and accidental direct physical loss to property . . . except as limited or excluded in this policy."[1] The Policy generally excludes "[c]ollapse" from its all-risk coverage.[2] In a section entitled "Additional Protection," however, the Policy reinstates coverage for a limited class of collapses:

         We will cover:

a) the entire collapse of a covered building structure;
b) the entire collapse of part of a covered building structure; and
c) direct physical loss to covered property caused by (a) or (b) above.
For coverage to apply, the collapse of a building structure specified in (a) or (b) above must be a sudden and accidental direct physical loss caused by one or more of the following: . . .
b) hidden decay of the building structure; . . .
f) defective methods or materials used in construction, repair, remodeling or renovation.
Collapse does not include settling, cracking, shrinking, bulging or expansion.[ ...

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