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Redeemed Christian Church of God Strong Tower Parish v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 8, 2018

Redeemed Christian Church of God Strong Tower Parish, Plaintiff,
v.
Auto-Owners Insurance Company, Defendant.

          Christina Phillips, for Plaintiff.

          Brock Alton, for Defendant.

          ORDER

          FRANKLIN L. NOEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         THIS MATTER came before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge on Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint and state a statutory claim (ECF No. 31). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED.

         A. Background

         Plaintiff Redeemed Christian Church of God Strong Tower Parish operates a church sanctuary, built in 1894, located at 697 13th Avenue Northeast Minneapolis, Minnesota. ECF No. 39, Ex. A. Defendant Auto-Owners Insurance Company is a Michigan headquartered insurance company. ECF No. 1. On April 26, 2017, Plaintiff commenced this diversity action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, raising a breach of contract claim. Id. In the instant motion, Plaintiff seeks the court's leave to amend its Complaint to claim recovery of taxable costs and attorney's fees under Minn. Stat. § 604.18.

         On May 3, 2015, large hail and wind gusts damaged the roof and other portions of the exterior of Plaintiff's church sanctuary. See ECF No. 1. At the time of the hail storm, Plaintiff was insured under a property insurance policy issued by Defendant (“the policy”) with a policy term of September 25, 2014, through September 25, 2015. ECF No. 39, Ex. 1. Generally, the policy provided commercial property coverage and commercial generally liability coverage. Id. Under the policy's “Coverage” provision, Defendant is obligated to “pay for direct physical loss of or damage to Covered Property at the premises.” Id. at 10. Under the policy's “Exclusion” provision, Defendant “will not pay for loss or damage caused directly or indirectly by . . . [w]ear and tear; . . . [r]ust, corrosion, decay, deterioration, hidden or latent defect or any quality in [the] property that causes it to damage or destroy itself.” Id. at 24.

         On June 18, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a policy claim to Defendant to cover the damage related to the hail storm. ECF No. 39, Ex. 2. At the April 30, 2018, hearing, Defendant represented that it used an independent insurance adjuster, Cunningham Lindsey, to initially investigate Plaintiff's claim, and at Cunningham Lindsey's suggestion, Defendant retained Haag Engineering (“Haag”) to inspect Plaintiff's storm related damage. On August 11, 2015, Haag inspected Plaintiff's storm damage, and on September 11, 2015, provided a written report of its findings. ECF No. 34, Ex. 3.

         Haag reported that:

1. Shingles had been displaced from the roof by wind forces. There was approximately 70 square feet on the north slopes, about 105 square feet on the east slope, and approximately 25 square feet on the south and west slopes of missing and torn shingles that were consistent with the effects of wind on the Redeemed Christian Church roof.
2. The age and deterioration of the shingles, extent and pattern of missing and torn shingles, and previous repairs indicates that it is highly likely that displacement and tearing of shingles occurred from more than one wind event and was exacerbated by improper installation.
3. There were approximately 6 hail-damaged shingles per square on the north slopes, and over 40 hail-damaged shingles per square on the west slopes on the Redeemed Christian Church roof.
4. We cannot rule out wind or hail as a cause for a water leak in the roof at the northeast building corner. We observed no hail- or wind-caused damage to the low-sloped roof, including the area of reported leakage; however, there were opened seams that created non-watertight conditions[.]
5. The water leak at the southwest building corner occurred below the HVAC RTU with ponding water. There was no wind- or ...

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