In Commandments, Inc. v. Penn-America Insurance Company, the insured was a bar owner whose toilets and bar drains backed up due to a sewer blockage. A plumber inspected the premises and prescribed a course to remedy the blockage. When the insured sought to have the insurer cover the costs of the plumber’s repairs, the insurer declined, pointing to an exclusion within the policy stating that “We will not pay for any loss or damage caused directly or indirectly by…water that backs up or overflows from a sewer, drain, or sump.”
The lower court granted summary judgment to the insurer on the breach of contract and bad faith claims against it; and the court here recommended that the appellate court affirm on appeal, citing the widely held principal that when the language of the contract is clear and unambiguous, a court is required to give effect to its language. Because the terms in the exclusionary provision at issue were not accorded any specific meaning in the policy, the court was obligated to afford them their normal meaning, and in doing so determined that the coverage requested was unambiguously within the scope of the policy’s exclusionary clause which broadly covered any back ups of sewers or drains causing damage.
Date of Decision: May 12, 2010
Commandments, Inc. v. Penn-America Ins. Co., October Term, 2009, No. 1119, Common Pleas Court of Philadelphia County, Civil Trial Division, 2010 Phila. Ct. Com. Pl. LEXIS 394 (May 12, 2010) (DiVito, J.)