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Comley v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co.

Supreme Court of Kentucky

December 13, 2018

LEE COMLEY APPELLANT
v.
AUTO-OWNERS INSURANCE COMPANY APPELLEE

          ON REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2016-CA-001305-MR FAYETTE CIRCUIT COURT NO. 15-CI-03350.

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Stephen M. O'Brien, III Bruce Clark Batten, II David Coomer O'BRIEN BATTEN & KIRTLEY, PLLC

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Luke Alan Wingfield John Carter McBRAYER, McGINNIS, LESLIE & KIRKLAND PLLC

          OPINION

          MINTON, CHIEF JUSTICE

         Lee Comley has homeowner's insurance through Auto-Owners Insurance Company covering loss from damage to his dwelling, other structures, and personal property-as those terms are defined by the policy- subject to certain policy exclusions and restrictions. Auto-Owners denied Comley's claim for loss to his home and its contents caused by water that inundated the basement of his home from a public water main that broke at a railroad crossing near his home. Auto-Owners denied Comley's claim based upon the application of policy exclusions relating to water damage. Comley sued Auto-Owners. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Auto-Owners, and the Court 01 Appeals affirmed the trial court s judgment, we accepted discretionary review to decide whether these policy exclusions negate coverage for Conley's claimed losses. We conclude that the policy exclusions do not apply to Comley's loss, so we reverse the Court of Appeals and remand this case to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The undisputed facts are simple. A water main line, owned and operated by a public utility company, running near a railroad crossing on a nearby street ruptured, causing the release of large amounts of pressurized water to flow above the ground. The water ran onto Comley's residential property, filling his basement with water six-feet deep.

         Comley sought payment from Auto-Owners for the loss to his property caused by the water damage. Auto-Owners denied the claim, asserting that some or all the following policy exclusions from coverage apply:

We do not cover loss to covered property caused directly or indirectly by any of the following, whether or not any other cause or event contributes concurrently or in any sequence to the loss:
(3) Water damage meaning:
(a) regardless of the cause, flood, surface water, waves, tidal water, storm surge, or overflow of a body of water. We do not cover spray from any of these, whether or not driven by the wind;
(d) water below the surface of the ground. This includes water which exerts pressure on or flows, seeps or leaks through any part 01 a building, sidewalk, driveway, swimming pool or other structure.

         Both parties filed motions for summary judgment in the trial court. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Auto-Owners, ruling that the damage-causing event was excluded by the policy. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial ...


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