Faultily Installed Heated Exterior Tile Deck Causes $67,000 in Damages, Insurance Co Denies Claim, Suit Goes to Court, Here’s The Ruling


After Safeco Insurance Company of America (Safeco) denied Connie Stevens Fisher’s claim for water damage to her Wyoming home, Stevens sued for breach of insurance contract. The trial court granted Safeco’s motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in its favor. We affirm.

In July 2004 Stevens submitted a $67,000 claim to Safeco for damage caused by a leak from the home’s terrace, which serves as the roof for a room with an indoor pool and spa, into the room below it. Stevens contended the leak resulted from a failure of the home’s hydronic system, used to heat the stone on the terrace to melt snow and ice. The claim included the cost to repair the hydronic system, replace the terrace stone and repair the damage to the interior sheetrock and wood. Following inspection by a structural engineer retained by Safeco and a claims adjuster, review of the blueprints for the home and discussion with the tile setter who had installed the terrace stone, in September 2004 Safeco denied the claim, finding coverage was excluded by the water damage, weather and construction defect exclusions based in part on the structural engineer’s report the leak resulted from improper construction methods and inadequate slope for the terrace.
In a December 2004 letter counsel for Stevens objected to Safeco’s denial of coverage, asserting the exclusions Safeco had relied on were not found in Stevens’s policy. Safeco responded it had relied on the correct Quality Crest policy form and sent counsel a certified copy of it. (It appears counsel had mistakenly believed the Quality Plus policy form sent to Stevens in late 2004 for the policy period beginning November 15, 2004 was the operative policy; Stevens canceled that policy on February 16, 2005.) Following more communications from Stevens and additional investigation, Safeco confirmed its denial of coverage in May 2005.