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Cummings v. The Phoenix Insurance Co.

Superior Court of Rhode Island

February 11, 2016

PETER CUMMINGS
v.
THE PHOENIX INSURANCE COMPANY, Misidentified as TRAVELERS INDEMNITY COMPANY OF CONNECTICUT

Kent County Superior Court

ATTORNEYS:

For Plaintiff: Jodi M. Gladstone, Esq.

For Defendant: John P. Graceffa, Esq.

DECISION

RUBINE, J.

This case is before this Court on appeal from a final judgment in the District Court. That judgment favored Defendant Phoenix Insurance Company, misidentified as Travelers Indemnity Company of Connecticut (Travelers), and all of Plaintiff Peter Cummings' (Plaintiff or Cummings) claims were denied and dismissed. This Court conducted a trial de novo. The Complaint was brought in three counts: Count I, Breach of Contract; Count II, Breach of Duty of Good Faith and Fair Dealing; and Count III, Quantum Meruit. Many facts have been established by the Parties' Joint Statement of Undisputed Facts, which are incorporated herein by reference.

I

Facts and Travel

Plaintiff was the owner of a 1996 BMW 740i. On August 27, 2005, Plaintiff's vehicle was involved in a rear end collision, causing damage to the hood and radiator, as well as related damage elsewhere on the vehicle. At the time of the accident, Plaintiff was an insured under an automobile policy issued by Travelers which undisputedly insured against damage to the vehicle occasioned by the collision. Plaintiff took the vehicle to a repair facility of his choosing, Advanced Autobody (Advanced) in the Village of Peace Dale, Rhode Island. Advanced surveyed the damage to the vehicle caused by the collision. Advanced provided Travelers an original repair estimate of $4762.97. Travelers paid that estimate, minus a $500 deductible, directly to Advanced as authorized by the insured. Sometime thereafter, Advanced submitted two supplemental estimates for repair to the vehicle. Travelers paid the two supplemental estimates in full. The original and two supplemental estimates were deemed to be covered by the collision portion of the automobile policy, and there is no dispute as to the coverage and cost to repair the insured vehicle resulting from the collision which occurred on August 27, 2005.[1]

The vehicle was stored at Advanced for approximately three months during the course of repairs. In addition to the damage caused by the collision, Plaintiff claims that additional damage to the vehicle occurred while the vehicle was at Advanced for repair of the collision damage. These additional claims related generally to electrical repairs and paint repairs. This damage was the subject of additional claims that the insurer did not pay. The failure to pay those additional claims forms the basis of this lawsuit. Plaintiff alleges that such damage should be covered under section "F" set forth in the insurance policy, known as "comprehensive coverage, " which, under the insurance contract, covers damage to the vehicle other than that caused by a collision. There is evidence before this Court that allows it to conclude that Travelers considered the claims for damage to the vehicle when being repaired at Advanced falling within the comprehensive coverage[2]-that is, damage not resulting from impact with another vehicle. Plaintiff picked up his vehicle at Advanced on either November 17, 2005 or November 19, 2005.

The damage claims the Plaintiff asserts came within the comprehensive coverage include the following:

1. Damage to the electrical system rendering inoperable certain electrical components of the vehicle, including windshield wipers; heating; radio; onboard computer system; and door locks.
2. Damage attributed to a faulty paint job performed by Advanced.

It is these two claims, and Travelers' responsibility to cover them under the comprehensive coverage provision of its agreement with Plaintiff, ...


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