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Baran v. New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co.

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


November 9, 2010

WILLIAM P. BARAN, JR., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY MANUFACTURERS INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Docket No. L-2823-07.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued October 26, 2010

Before Judges Skillman and Yannotti.

This appeal involves a claim for insurance coverage for damage to the basement of a house in Hopewell Township caused by water discharging from a pipe leading from a sump pump to a location outside the house.

Defendant New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company (NJM) issued a homeowners insurance policy for the house to plaintiff. The policy provided coverage for "[a]ccidental discharge or overflow of water . . . from within a plumbing . . . system[,]" but stated that "[i]n this peril, a plumbing system does not include a sump, sump pump or related equipment." The policy also contained an exclusion for "[w]ater damage" from "[w]ater . . . which overflows from a pump." In addition, the policy included an endorsement that provided $5000 of coverage for "direct physical loss" from "[w]ater which overflows from a sump even if such overflow results from the mechanical breakdown of the sump pump."

On April 16, 2007, while plaintiff's sump pump was operating during a rain storm, a "check valve" on a pipe leading from the sump pump to a location outside the house "blew apart." As a result, the water being pumped out by the sump pump flowed onto the floor of plaintiff's basement rather than the location outside his house, causing damage to plaintiff's basement and its contents. After a plumber repaired the check valve, the water resumed flowing through the discharge pipe to the location outside the house.

Plaintiff filed a claim with NJM for the damage to his basement and its contents. NJM paid plaintiff the $5000 coverage provided under the endorsement for water that overflows from a sump pump, but disclaimed responsibility for any additional payment under the policy.

Plaintiff then brought this action against NJM seeking a declaration that the NJM policy provided coverage for the full damage to his basement and its contents caused by the water flowing out of the discharge pipe as a result of the blowout of the check valve. After the completion of discovery, NJM moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion by a brief oral opinion. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm.

We conclude that the only reasonable construction of the term "related equipment" in the exclusion of "a sump, sump pump or related equipment" from the definition of the "plumbing system" encompasses the piping and other related equipment needed to discharge the water flowing out of a sump pump to a location outside the house even though that equipment is purchased separately from the sump pump. In addition, we conclude that the water damage to plaintiff's basement and its contents also fell within the exclusion from coverage for "water damage" from "[w]ater . . . which overflows from a pump." Therefore NJM properly limited its payment to plaintiff to the $5000 coverage provided by the endorsement to his policy for damage caused by "water which overflows from a sump[.]"

Affirmed.

20101109

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