Patton v. Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance Co.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Insurance Law
  • Date Filed: 10-08-2014
  • Case #: A150143
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Nakamoto, J. for the Court; Armstrong, P.J.; and Egan, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

If a homeowner's insurance policy contains ambiguous provisions relating to the time-frame in which an insured may recover, those provisions are held against the drafter of the policy.

Plaintiff appealed the trial court’s adverse judgment interpreting a homeowner’s insurance policy. Plaintiff assigned error to the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and the trial court’s interpretation of the policy. Plaintiff’s home was destroyed in a fire. Plaintiff sought recovery through its homeowner’s insurance policy administered by Defendant. After finding reconstruction quotes from various contractors, Plaintiff struggled to expeditiously obtain building permits. The insurance policy limited the amount of recovery costs for reconstruction as well as the time limit in which Plaintiff could bring action against Defendant. Before the trial court, Defendant argued that the two-year time limitation had been exceeded. Plaintiff argued that the policy language was too ambiguous and that the time limitation was not expressly designed for the situation at hand—specifically whether the construction must be completed within the stated time period. The trial court held in favor of Defendant and granted summary judgment. This Court reviewed the policy provisions and held that the language was ambiguous, and did not expressly state the time-limitation requested by Defendant. The Court held that if the policy provides for such a drastic limitation, it must be clear and unambiguous, as ambiguous provisions are held against the drafter. Reversed.

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