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Wegrzyn v. American Family Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth District

August 9, 2013

Rebecca L. Wegrzyn, et al. Appellant
v.
American Family Insurance Company, et al. Appellee

Trial Court No. CI0200402807

Michael S. Wegrzyn, pro se.

Robert B. Holt, Jr. and Drew W. Broaddus, for appellee L.D.R. Industries, Inc.

DECISION AND JUDGMENT

OSOWIK, J.

(¶ 1} This is an appeal from a judgment of the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas, which granted appellee's, LDR Industries, Inc., motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, this court affirms the decision of the trial court.

(¶ 2} Appellant, Michael Wegrzyn, sets forth the following two assignments of error:

1. The court below erred to the prejudice of Appellants by granting the motion for summary judgment of Appellees AFIC and James Murphy.
2. The court below erred to the prejudice of Appellants by granting the motion for summary judgment of Appellee L.D.R. Industries, Inc.

(¶ 3} The following undisputed facts are relevant to the issues raised on appeal. In August 2003, appellant's wife installed a new faucet fixture in the upstairs bathroom of the couple's Oregon, Ohio residence. Appellant's wife also installed a new waterline to the faucet fixture. The record reflects that there were no defects or flaws with the existing faucet or waterline. Both replacement plumbing fixtures were purchased at an area Sears store. On August 30, 2003, the newly installed bathroom waterline ruptured in an extremely unusual way that caused substantial water flow from the line into the home resulting in extensive damage.

(¶ 4} Following this occurrence, appellant and his wife filed a claim with their insurance provider, American Family Insurance Company (AFIC), regarding the water damage. Appellant has steadfastly maintained throughout the course of this matter that the ruptured waterline had been watertight for three days prior to rupturing after the family left for a weekend trip to Catawba Island. Interestingly, appellant not only had the original house rebuilt after the flood, but also added a 2, 000 square foot addition and in-ground pool.

(¶ 5} On August 23, 2004, following an investigation and assessment of appellant's insurance claim seeking payment for the reconstruction of his now vastly expanded and upgraded home, AFIC rejected the suspect insurance claim. AFIC noted that appellant, who had prior felony fraud convictions, had improperly failed to disclose his past fraud convictions on his insurance application. Additionally, AFIC's investigation determined that the nature of the rupturing of the waterline and the subsequent massive water damage could only have resulted from several highly unusual modifications made to the waterline between the time of purchase and installation causing the altered waterline to be prone to immediate, severe failure. On August 24, 2004, appellant filed suit against AFIC for the rejected claim.

(¶ 6} On August 29, 2004, appellant amended the lawsuit against AFIC to include claims against appellee, LDR Industries, the distributer of the waterline, and Sears, the seller of the waterline. Appellant claimed that the waterline ruptured as a result of a manufacturing defect by appellee, a Chicago-based plumbing supply company. However, all waterlines distributed by appellee are purchased from a Taiwanese manufacturer. The waterlines are then distributed to retailers, such as Sears, to be offered for sale to the public.

(¶ 7} During the early stages of this litigation, AFIC explored filing subrogation claims against appellee in anticipation of liability attributable to appellee. However, in the course of investigating the subrogation claim, AFIC had appellant's waterline tested by engineers at SEA, Ltd. (SEA); AFIC determined that no such subrogation issue existed. The tests clearly demonstrated that, contrary to appellant's claim, the subject waterline leaked in an immediate, obvious and audible fashion when tested with a normal amount of water pressure. Consistent with this, the experts noted that the subject waterline was 1-1/8" shorter than the type distributed by LDR and sold by Sears.

(¶ 8} This discrepancy in length was so significant that the waterline would not have even been able to fit in appellee's product packaging had it been defectively manufactured and already in the condition claimed to be present at the time of sale by appellant. In conjunction with, the subject waterline also utilized hardware ...


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