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Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Allstate Insurance Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

November 21, 2017

WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., Plaintiff,


          Benita Y. Pearson United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., (“Wells Fargo”) brought the present action against Allstate Insurance Company (“Allstate”) on February 5, 2015 asserting claims for breach of contract, declaratory judgment, specific performance, and unjust enrichment. The parties submitted cross-motions for summary judgment on the issue of whether arson is an excluded loss under a homeowner's policy which prohibits coverage for “vandalism and malicious mischief” when a home has been vacant for 30 or more consecutive days. The Court has been advised, having reviewed the record, the parties' briefs, and the applicable law. For the reasons set forth below, Wells Fargo's motion is granted and Defendant's motion is denied.

         I. Stipulated Facts

         The stipulated facts[1] are as follows:

1. The terms of Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company Homeowners Policy No. 9 80 584930 09/20 (the “Policy”), executed with Antoniano Delsignore for a single-family home located at 7376 Yellow Creek Drive in Poland, Ohio (the “Property”), govern the dispute between the parties in the above-captioned action.
2. At all relevant times, Wells Fargo was the insured mortgagee under the Policy.
3. Mr. Delsignore defaulted on his mortgage payments in 2013, and by the end of the year, the Property was vacant.
4. On February 6, 2014, a fire caused by an unknown arsonist (the “Arson”) damaged the Property.
5. The Policy was in effect at the time of the Arson.
6. Wells Fargo filed an insurance claim under the Policy for the damage caused by the Arson.
7. Allstate denied Wells Fargo's claim based upon the exclusion in the Policy which precludes coverage for losses caused by vandalism and/or malicious mischief when the Property has been vacant or unoccupied for 30 or more consecutive days prior to the loss.
8. Wells Fargo and Allstate disagree over the applicability of the exclusion described in Paragraph 7 (above) to the Arson.

         II. Procedural History

         Wells Fargo filed the within lawsuit against Allstate in February 2015. There is no Ohio legal precedent deciding whether “malicious mischief” or “vandalism” exclusions in homeowners' insurance policies include losses that occur as a result of arson. The Court certified the question to the Supreme Court of Ohio, and the high court accepted the certification on September 30, 2015. On May 18, 2016, the Supreme Court of Ohio issued an order that the certification was improvidently allowed and declined to answer the question presented.[2] Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 146 Ohio St.3d 232 (2016) (ECF No. 30). Thereafter, both parties submitted cross-motions for summary judgment regarding the issue of whether arson falls within an exclusion for “vandalism or malicious mischief” under the Policy.

         III. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriately granted when the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Johnson v. Karnes, 398 F.3d 868, 873 (6th Cir. 2005). The moving party is not required to file affidavits or other similar materials negating a claim on which its opponent bears the burden of proof, so long as the movant relies upon the absence of the essential element in the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party must “show that the non-moving party has failed to establish an essential element of his case upon which he would bear the ultimate burden of proof at trial.” Guarino v. Brookfield Twp. Trustees., 980 F.2d 399, 403 (6th Cir. 1992).

         Once the movant makes a properly supported motion, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate the existence of genuine dispute. An opposing party may not simply rely on its pleadings. Rather, it must “produce evidence that results in a conflict of material fact to be resolved by a jury.” Cox v. Ky. Dep't. of Transp., 53 F.3d 146, 150 (6th Cir. 1995). The non-moving party must, to defeat the motion, “show that there is doubt as to the material facts and that the record, taken as a whole, does not lead to a judgment for the movant.” Guarino, 980 F.2d at 403. In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party when deciding whether a genuine issue of material fact exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144 (1970).

         The United States Supreme Court, in deciding Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242 (1986), stated that in order for a motion for summary judgment to be granted, there must be no genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 248. The existence of some mere factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). A fact is “material” only if its resolution will affect the outcome of the lawsuit. In determining whether a factual issue is “genuine, ” the court must decide whether the evidence is such that reasonable jurors could find that the non-moving party is entitled to a verdict. Id. Summary judgment “will not lie . . . if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. To withstand summary judgment, the non-movant must show sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact. Klepper v. First Am. Bank,916 F.2d 337, 342 (6th Cir. 1990). The existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position ordinarily will not be sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. This standard of review does not differ when reviewing ...

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