Matthew Ponzi and Thomas Orlando Secure Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Victory Affirming Summary Judgment in Material Matching, Suit Limitation and Appraisal Dispute

Foran Glennon shareholders Matthew Ponzi and Thomas Orlando recently obtained a ruling from the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in Legend’s Creek Homeowners Assn., Inc. v. Travelers Indemnity Co. of America affirming summary judgment on behalf of their insurer client in a matter involving a belated demand for appraisal relating to a claim for “matching” following storm damage on the plaintiff’s property.

In September 2016, Indianapolis-based Legend’s Creek Homeowners Assn. Inc. filed a claim for hail and wind damage that had occurred in May 2016 to the north-facing sides of insured condominium buildings. Legend’s Creek’s public adjuster initially agreed with the scope of repair limited to the north-facing sides of the condominium buildings. Less than three weeks before the two-year contractual deadline to bring a legal action, however, the PA demanded replacement of all four sides of the condominium buildings because the new sides allegedly did not match the undamaged ones to his satisfaction. When the client refused, the insured filed suit after the two-year time limit had expired.

During discovery, it was revealed that the PA e-mailed the Legend’s Creek Board, stating the claims process was a ‘game of chess.’ His plan was to let the insurer replace the north-facing sides and then argue thereafter that the purported mismatch required Travelers to replace and paint the rest of the sides. This email was featured in the Seventh Circuit opinion authored by Judge Manion: “Unfortunately for Legend’s Creek, it lost the game” because the PA failed to foresee that the carrier “might checkmate it by raising the contractual suit limitation.”

An interesting twist in the case occurred when, during litigation, the association moved to compel appraisal on the matching issue. Even though the appraisal demand was also made after the two-year suit deadline, the magistrate judge compelled appraisal believing it would force the parties to compromise, and an award for matching was ultimately made by the appraisal panel. First, the district court judge, and later the Seventh Circuit, determined that the appraisal award was unenforceable because the motion to compel appraisal occurred after the two-year suit deadline and, like the suit itself, was also untimely.

Read more about Tom and Matt’s positive outcome on behalf of their client in Law360 (subscription required), The Indiana Lawyer and Business Insurance’s Top 10: Week of May 9.

Matt concentrates his practice in insurance coverage and commercial litigation, specifically in the analysis and litigation of commercial property, liability and reinsurance claims. Clients trust his extensive trial experience at both the federal and state level when faced with challenging litigation matters.

Tom concentrates his practice in insurance and appellate law in both insurance and non-insurance disputes. With experience representing both appellants and appellees in several state and federal courts nationwide, he is well-seasoned in a range of insurance coverage disputes, including property and liability coverage and litigation matters involving commercial and personal insurance.