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Chase v. Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Co.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

May 23, 2017

Eric Chase
v.
Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company

         Providence County Superior Court PC 14-5684 Richard A. Licht Associate Justice.

          For Plaintiff: Joseph F. Hook, Esq.

          For Defendant: Kristen M. Whittle, Esq. Stephens Adams, Esq.

          Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

          OPINION

          Francis X. Flaherty Associate Justice.

         The plaintiff, Eric Chase, appeals from a Superior Court order granting the motion of the defendant, Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company, for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure. This matter came before us for oral argument on April 27, 2017, pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why this appeal should not summarily be decided. After considering the parties' oral and written arguments and after thoroughly reviewing the record, it is our opinion that cause has not been shown and that this case should be decided at this time without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         According to plaintiff, [1] a property that he owned on Bosworth Court in Newport suffered a casualty loss on June 25, 2010 that caused extensive interior and exterior damage. The plaintiff timely reported the loss to defendant, which insured the property pursuant to a policy that it had issued to plaintiff. After investigating the loss, defendant accepted the claim as covered under the policy. The defendant then authorized plaintiff to repair the property and further authorized a partial release of funds to enable plaintiff to begin the repairs. However, the funds released were not sufficient to pay for the repairs and to cover plaintiff's alternative living expenses. Accordingly, plaintiff demanded that defendant release additional funds, but defendant refused. The plaintiff alleges that defendant then "engaged in a pattern of dilatory conduct thereby refusing to fulfill its obligations under the [p]olicy."

         Based upon plaintiff's complaint, we are left in the dark as to the timing and particulars of the above events. Nevertheless, on March 6, 2014, after nearly four years had elapsed since the casualty loss, plaintiff attempted to invoke the policy's appraisal provision. In a letter dated March 10, 2014, defendant rejected plaintiff's demand for an appraisal, citing the passage of time and that plaintiff had failed to submit certain documentation that the insurer had requested under the terms of the policy.

         In November 2014, some four years after the loss, plaintiff brought a two-count suit against defendant, alleging breach of contract and bad faith.[2] The defendant then moved, pursuant to Rule 12(c), for judgment on the pleadings. In its motion, defendant highlighted two provisions from the policy:

"3. Your Duties after Loss. In case of loss, you must:
"* * *
"c) as often as we reasonably ...

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