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Christ Church of Gospel Ministries v. Guideone Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

November 19, 2019

CHRIST CHURCH OF THE GOSPEL MINISTRIES d/b/a EVANGEL CHURCHES, Plaintiff,
v.
GUIDEONE MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DISMISSING THE CASE (ECF NO. 10)

          AVERN COHN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This is an insurance case. Plaintiff Christ Church of the Gospel d/b/a/ Evangel Christian Churches (“Evangel Churches”) has filed a claim against their insurance provider, Guideone Mutual Insurance Company (“GMIC”), for breach of the commercial insurance policy insured by GMIC.

         GMIC has filed a motion for summary judgment asking the Court to decide that Evangel Churches' loss is not covered by the policy, which is now before the Court (ECF No. 10).

         II. BACKGROUND FACTS

         GMIC provided insurance to Evangel Churches' property located in Roseville, Michigan, during the relevant time. (ECF No. 10-2). The policy provided coverage “for direct physical loss of, or damage to, “Covered Property” caused by or resulting from a “Covered Cause of Loss.” Id. In early March 2017, a contractor hired by Evangel Churches began work on replacing the roof of the building, which had undergone extensive repair in years prior. During the replacement work, the contractor removed shingles from the roof, and utilized tarps to cover areas where the shingles had been removed and not yet replaced. (ECF No. 13-3). On or about March 7, 2017, during a storm, and perhaps at other times, the tarps blew off their position on the roof and/or were damaged. As a result, water leaked into the interior of the building. Evangel Churches says the interior of the building and the personal property inside suffered extensive water damage.

         The insurance claim is not in evidence. At oral argument, the parties suggested the claim was made over the phone. (See ECF No. 10-5). The record is void of the specifics of the damage. GMIC denied the claim, giving rise to this dispute. (ECF No. 13-6).

         III. ANALYSIS

         The policy expressly excludes coverage for interior water damage, unless the building first sustains damage by a “covered cause of loss.” The policy defines a “covered cause of loss” as a “risk of direct physical loss” unless the loss is excluded by the policy. See Ex. A, attached. In the definitions section, “specified causes of loss” include in relevant part a windstorm, hail, or water damage[1]. Thus, the building would have to first sustain direct physical loss from a windstorm, hail, or water damage in order to be covered.

         GMIC says the roof did not sustain damage by a “covered cause of loss.” Rather, exposed areas or openings in the roof created during replacement were insufficiently covered by tarps.

         The policy defines the term "property damage” as:

a. Physical injury to tangible property, including all resulting loss of use of that property. All such loss of use shall be deemed to occur at the time of the physical injury that caused it; or
b. Loss of use of tangible property that is not physically injured. All such loss of use shall be deemed to occur at the time of the "occurrence" that caused it.

(ECF No. 13-15, PageID.588). Further, a court may establish the meaning of a term used in an insurance policy through a dictionary definition. Fitch v. State Farm Fire &Cas. Co., 211 Mich.App. 468 (1995). The dictionary definition of “damage” is: “physical harm caused to something in such a way as to impair its value, usefulness, or normal function.” See https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/damage ...


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