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Steele R. Chadwell v. New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company

January 6, 2011

STEELE R. CHADWELL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY MANUFACTURERS INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Docket No. L-2306-08.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued December 13, 2010 - Decided

Before Judges Grall and LeWinn.

Plaintiff Steele R. Chadwell filed a complaint against defendant New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company (NJM), seeking a declaratory judgment of coverage under a homeowner's policy issued by NJM. The claim was for mold-related loss caused by ice-damming. He appeals from an order granting NJM's motion for summary judgment, which was entered on the parties' cross-motions.*fn1 Finding no basis for construing the policy to cover Chadwell's claim, we affirm.

Chadwell and his family have lived in the insured residence since 1981, and NJM has insured it since 1986. Chadwell discovered the mold on September 18, 2007, when he removed aluminum siding revealing mold, mildew and water damage on the underlying wood siding of two exterior walls. According to Chadwell, the "best of the many explanations" for the condition is that ice filled the gutter along those walls at some point and forced water to travel (1) out of the back of the gutter, (2) along the underside of the roof overhang toward the wall, and (3) down, with the aid of gravity, between the aluminum siding and the original cedar siding of those walls.

Chadwell's NJM policy covers a period commencing on September 4, 2007 and ending on September 4, 2008. It includes an HO-2 broad form and, relevant here, an endorsement entitled "LIMITED FUNGI, WET OR DRY ROT, OR BACTERIA COVERAGE" (mold endorsement). The total premium is $1334, and the cost of the mold endorsement is $82.

Section I of Chadwell's broad form policy has four components. Those sections are: SECTION I - PROPERTY COVERAGES, SECTION I - PERILS INSURED AGAINST, SECTION I - EXCLUSIONS, and SECTION I - CONDITIONS. SECTION I - PROPERTY COVERAGES includes a subsection titled "Additional Coverages." The various sections and subsections of the broad form policy are listed in its table of contents, which is entitled "YOUR HOMEOWNERS POLICY QUICK REFERENCE New Jersey HO-2 Broad Form."

SECTION I - PERILS INSURED AGAINST identifies sixteen perils. Among them are: 1) fire or lightning; 2) windstorm or hail; 3) explosion; 10) falling objects; 11) weight of ice, snow or sleet which causes damage to a building or property contained in a building; and 12) accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from within a plumbing, heating, air conditioning or automatic fire protective sprinkler system or from within a household appliance. Under a major heading in the table of contents, "SECTION I - PERILS INSURED AGAINST," all sixteen perils insured against that are set forth in the policy are listed and numbered one through sixteen.

SECTION I - PROPERTY COVERAGES, "Additional Coverages," includes eleven additional coverages, which does not include an "additional coverage" for fungi, wet or dry rot, or bacteria. Under a major heading in the table of contents, SECTION I -PROPERTY COVERAGES and the subheading "Additional Coverages," the eleven additional coverages provided in the broad form policy are listed and numbered one through eleven.

The mold endorsement is printed on a form, and its caption warns: "THIS ENDORSEMENT CHANGES THE POLICY, PLEASE READ IT CAREFULLY." Throughout, the mold endorsement references sections and subsections of the broad form policy. The mold endorsement adds a twelfth "Additional Coverage" to the eleven included in the broad form policy, limits the additional coverage to the sixteen perils insured against in the broad form policy and modifies the twelfth peril insured against - "Accidental Discharge Or Overflow Of Water Or Steam." In pertinent part it provides:

SECTION I - PROPERTY COVERAGES ADDITIONAL COVERAGES The following Additional Coverage is added:

12. "Fungi", Wet Or Dry Rot, Or Bacteria

a. The amount shown in the Schedule above is the most ...


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