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The Collaborative Clearinghouse for Lawsuits and Other Claims Against ACE Group Insurance Companies

Kurland et al v. ACE American Insurance Company et al

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Case Number: 
1:15-cv-02668 Search Pacer
ACE Group party(s): 
Opposing Party: 
Richard Kurland
Court Type: 
Federal
US District Court: 
District of Maryland
Date Filed: 
Sep 10 2015

COMPLAINT

Plaintiffs Richard and Marti Kurland ("the Kurlands"), by their undersigned
counsel, hereby sue Defendants ACE American Insurance Company and Bankers
Standard Insurance Company (collectively, "Defendants") for breach of contract and for

damages:

NATURE OF THE ACTION

  1. This is a Complaint for breach of a contract of insurance covering the
    Plaintiffs' residence. The Kurlands' home is the insured premises under an insurance
    policy issued by the Defendants. The Kurlands' residence sustained heavy water and
    mold damage, endangering the health of their children and forcing the family to vacate
    the house. The Defendants have wrongfully denied the Kurlands' claim for complete
    coverage of the extensive property damage to the residence and its contents.

THE PARTIES

  1. Plaintiffs are the insured policyholders and are Maryland residents.
  2. Defendant ACE American Insurance Company ("ACE"), the writer of the
    policy at issue, is a Pennsylvania corporation with its principal place of business located
    at P.O. Box 41484, TL14F, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19101.
  3. Defendant Bankers Standard Insurance Company ("Bankers Standard"), the
    issuer of the policy at issue, is a Pennsylvania corporation, with its principal place of
    business located at P.O. Box 41484, TL14F, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19101. Bankers
    Standard is an ACE Group Company.

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JURISDICTION AND VENUE

  1. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1) because this
    is an action between the Kurlands, who are citizens of Maryland, and the Defendants,
    who are citizens of Pennsylvania, and because the amount in controversy exceeds
    $75,000.00, exclusive of interest and costs.
  2. Venue is proper in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) in that the
    dispute arises out of a loss in Baltimore County, Maryland and all or a substantial part of
    the events or omissions giving rise to this claim occurred within the District of Maryland.

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

  1. ACE, through Bankers Standard, issued to the Kurlands a Platinum
    Portfolio of homeowner's insurance policies (Nos. 268-06-12-15H, 268-06-12-15U, 268-
    06-12-15V; collectively, the "Policy") covering the Kurlands' residence located at 10
    Spring Forest Court, Owings Mills, Baltimore County, Maryland (the "Residence"). The
    Policy was effective from June 1, 2014 to June 1, 2015, and insures the Kurlands'
    Residence up to a limit of $1,500,000.00, as well as their personal property up to a limit
    of $1,050,000.00. Under the Policy, covered losses are settled on a replacement cost
    basis.
  2. The Kurlands have sustained significant losses, to both their Residence and
    their personal property, that are covered by the Policy. The Policy states:

Losses We Cover. We cover risk of direct physical loss to property

described in Part I of this policy, subject to Losses We Do Not Cover.

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See Ex. A, Policy at 14. As such, the Policy is an "all-risk" policy, and covers all perils
unless explicitly excluded.

  1. The Kurlands purchased the Residence in December of 2011, and lived
    there with their two minor children. In 2015, the Kurlands discovered water leaking and
    condensing from the HVAC system, damaging the exterior and interior of the Residence.
    The faulty HVAC system caused water to accumulate in the ceilings, walls, and ducts in
    the basement, pantry hallway, office hallway, office, and attic. The Residence also
    sustained direct physical loss to structural elements such as the roof and beams as a result
    of water damage. In addition, the defective HVAC system was sucking insulation into
    the units and blowing fiberglass throughout the home, creating a hazardous environment
    for all inside.
  2. After identifying the HVAC system defects, the Kurlands also discovered
    that water was leaking in other areas of the Residence, from sources other than the
    HVAC system. In particular, the roof, windows, and pool deck sustained additional
    water damage. The Kurlands repaired these areas of water damage at their own expense.
    Nevertheless, the basement walls became soaked, causing further water damage, which in
    turn caused other ensuing losses.
  3. The water damage also caused mold to ensue. For example, the HVAC
    units were filled with black mold, and black mold grew on the water-damaged basement
    walls. Other visible and non-visible mold existed in other areas of the Residence.
    According to tests conducted in late March of 2015 by EMSL Analytical, Inc., an
    independent laboratory, the mold levels in the Kurlands' home indicate "High Relative

Moldiness." See Ex. B, EMSL Report at 1. The Kurlands were then advised to leave the
home. Acting immediately on that advice, the Kurlands permanently vacated the
Residence on April 22, 2015.

  1. The all-risk Policy contains various exclusions as well as specific
    Endorsements and "Extra Benefits." Pursuant to these provisions, the losses to the
    Kurlands' Residence and personal property are covered under the Policy.
  2. Water from the HVAC system has extensively damaged the Residence,
    including but not limited to the interior, exterior, structural elements, fixtures, equipment,
    and personal property. The Residence requires significant repair and rebuilding as a
    direct result of this water damage. Although the Policy contains an exclusion for certain
    types of water damage resulting from natural causes, the Policy does not exclude loss
    caused by water damage from a faulty HVAC system. See Policy at 14-15. Accordingly,
    because water damage caused by the HVAC system is not excluded, the losses sustained
    to the Kurlands' Residence are covered up to $1,500,000.00.
  3. In addition, the Policy includes an "Equipment Breakdown" Endorsement,
    which provides an additional $500,000.00 in coverage. See Policy, Equipment
    Breakdown Coverage at 1. This Endorsement covers "[a]ll mechanical breakdown," and
    damage "[c]aused by, resulting from, or consisting of . . . [m]echanical breakdown ... or
    [r]upture, bursting, bulging, implosion, or steam explosion." Id. Thus, the faulty HVAC
    units, which caused the water and mold damage to the Residence and personal property,
    as well as contaminated the air in the Residence by sucking insulation into the unit and
    blowing fiberglass through the vents, are themselves covered under the Policy. Through

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an exception to an exclusion, the Policy covers the water piping in the HVAC system. Id.
Moreover, the ductwork has sustained extensive damage that is covered under the Policy
because the damage was caused by the mechanical breakdown of the HVAC units. And,
the loss of personal property was also caused by equipment breakdown. Defendants
therefore have a duty to pay for the replacement or repair of the HVAC system, and the
damage caused by the breakdown of the HVAC system.

  1. The Policy provides another Extra Benefit for "Rebuilding to Code."

Under that provision, the Defendants represent that:

We will pay for the increased costs you incur due to the enforcement of any
ordinance or law which requires or regulates the construction, demolition,
remodeling, renovation or repair of that part of a covered building or other
structure damaged by a covered loss.

See Policy at 8. Because of the covered damage, the Residence is in violation of

applicable laws and ordinances. In its current condition, the Residence is not clean, safe,

or sanitary because of the extensive water damage, as well as the mold that ensued.

Accordingly, Defendants have a duty to pay for the additional cost of repairing the

Residence to a condition that complies with the applicable law.

  1. The Policy further provides coverage for loss of use of the Residence:

If a covered loss damages part of the residence premises making it not fit to
live in, we cover any necessary increase in living expenses incurred by you
so that your household can maintain its normal standard of living.

See Policy at 6. As a result of the water and mold damage, the Residence was not fit to

live in. The Kurlands were forced to move to a rental apartment, and subsequently to a

hotel, incurring significant covered additional living expenses. The Defendants have a

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duty to pay for these covered additional living expenses until the Residence is repaired or
until the Kurlands permanently relocate. Id.

  1. As a result of the water and mold damage, and the breakdown of HVAC
    equipment, the Kurlands' personal property has been extensively damaged by water, and
    in some cases, ensuing mold. As to some items, it is possible to clean them at great effort
    and expense. In other instances, however, items either cannot be cleaned, or the cost of
    cleaning exceeds the costs of buying a replacement. Using even the most economical
    approach, the Kurlands have sustained covered personal property losses to the contents of
    the Residence in excess of the jurisdictional amount.
  2. The Kurlands filed a timely claim for the loss, accepted by Defendants on
    April 17, 2015, and have complied with all duties of the insured pursuant to the Policy.
    See Policy at 17-18.
  3. In response, Defendants proposed a patently inadequate offer. The
    Defendants inspected the Residence, and had a full opportunity to observe the extensive
    loss. However, on May 12, 2015, the Defendants issued a check to the Kurlands for only
    $24,830.90, for "water/mold damage," in purported settlement of all losses. See Ex. C.
    The Kurlands have not deposited or negotiated the check.

COUNT I
BREACH OF CONTRACT

  1. The Kurlands re-allege and incorporate by reference the foregoing
    Paragraphs as if fully set forth herein.

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  1. Defendants have a contractual duty to pay the Kurlands for the full amount
    of the covered damages they have sustained, up to the limits of the Policy.
  2. Defendants breached the contract by offering an amount that barely begins
    to compensate the Kurlands' for their covered losses.
  3. As a result of Defendants' breach of contract, the Kurlands have suffered
    direct and consequential damages.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs demand judgment in their favor and against Defendants
for damages in excess of $75,000.00, in an amount to be determined at trial, plus costs of
suit, reasonable attorneys' fees, expenses, pre- and post-judgment interest at the
maximum rate as permitted by law, and any other relief as the Court deems just.

REQUEST FOR JURY TRIAL

Plaintiffs request a jury trial on all issues triable to a jury.

The provided text is an excerpt from a document filed in this case. For a full understanding of the case, one should read the complete court file, including the response.

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