On appeal from the Superior Court, Law Division, Essex County.
Shebell and Muir. The opinion of the court was delivered by Shebell, J.A.D.
Plaintiffs appeal the entry of summary judgment in favor of defendant, Royal Insurance Company, following the Law Division's consideration of cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiffs' basement and its contents sustained water damage as a result of a rupture in a hose which connected their sump pump to a drain. Their homeowner's policy with defendant covered loss due to "[a]ccidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from within a plumbing, heating or air conditioning system or from within a household appliance." Defendant disclaimed liability under a clause which excluded "loss resulting directly or indirectly from . . . [w]ater damage, meaning . . . water below the surface of the ground . . ." We reverse and remand.
The basic facts are not disputed. On May 30, 1984 the basement in plaintiffs' home filled with water when a hose ruptured. The hose connected a sump pump to a drain in the basement. The sump pump was portable and was located in a sump pit in the basement. The pump was powered by plugging
its electrical cord into a standard wall outlet. Plaintiff Michael Stone, an attorney, gave the lay opinion that the only water in the basement came from the hose and that there was no water seepage. He concedes that the purpose of the sump pump was to remove subsurface water, i.e., when the water table reaches the level of the sump pit it is expelled.
The homeowner's policy in question covered "direct loss . . . caused by:
14. Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from within a plumbing, heating or air conditioning system or from within a household appliance.
The relevant exclusion clause stated: "We do not cover loss directly or indirectly from:
3. Water Damage, meaning:
a. flood, surface water, waves, tidal water, overflow of a body of water, or spray from any of these, whether or not driven by wind;
b. water which backs up through sewers or drains; or
c. water below the surface of the ground, including water which exerts pressure on or seeps or leaks through a building, sidewalk, driveway, ...