Thursday, May 10, 2007

Summary 2007 WY 75

Summary of Decision issued May 10, 2007

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Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Case Name: Colorado Casualty Ins. Co. v. Sammons

Citation: 2007 WY 75

Docket Number: 06-239

Appeal from the District Court of Albany County, the Honorable Jeffrey A. Donnell, Judge

Representing Appellant (Defendant): John A. Coppede of Hickey & Evans, LLP, Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Brian J. Spano and Stephen E. Csajaghy of Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons LLP, Denver, Colorado. Argument by Mr. Spano.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): James W. Britt, Chris A. Mattison, Cathleen H. Heintz, and Alan Epstein of Hall & Evans, LLC, Denver, Colorado. Argument by Ms. Heintz.

Issues: Whether the policy provided an unambiguous method of calculating the amount Colorado Casualty owed Sammons. Whether there were genuine issues of material fact concerning the amount Colorado Casualty owed Sammons.

Facts/Discussion: The district court granted summary judgment to an insured on its contract claim against its insurer after a fire loss, granted summary judgment to the insurer on the insured’s emotional distress claim and denied summary judgment to both parties on the remaining claims.
Standard of Review: Summary judgment motions are governed by W.R.C.P. 56.
The confusion in the case arose from the fact the parties and the district court did not clearly follow the two-step process established in the policy for determining the amount Colorado Casualty was to pay Sammons. Once Casualty determined that it would pay Sammons the cost of replacing the lost or damaged property, then the policy provided alternative methods for valuing the lost or damaged property. Relying on language in the policy to pay the amount “actually and necessarily” expended in replacing the property, Casualty argues they have fulfilled their policy obligations. The Court agreed. The liability limitations in the policy clearly restricted the broad concept of “replacement cost coverage.” Casualty’s obligation was to pay the least of certain measured amounts which would have been either the RCV (replacement cost value) amounts upon replacement of the property “with new material of like kind and quality” or those actual and necessary amounts expended to replace the property – whichever was least. This was a question of fact which the fact finder must determine. The record does not clearly reflect as an established fact that some of Sammons’ expenditures were required by Wyoming law. Thus, a genuine issue of material fact existed.

Holding: The summary judgment granted to Sammons was reversed because genuine issues of material fact remained for determination by a fact finder. Casualty’s liability under the policy must be determined through the application of the two-part valuation and payment process described in the policy. Because Sammons did not replace the lost and damaged property according to the ACV (actual cash value) and RCV estimations, a fact finder must determine the value of that part of the new construction that was necessarily expended to replace the lost and damaged property.

Reversed and remanded.

C.J. Voigt delivered the decision.

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