Judge Reyna in Hidalgo County granted two Motions for Summary Judgment on behalf of State Farm Lloyds regarding the City of Mission’s alleged requirements regarding the type of sheathing to be used in roof repairs.  In Victor Vela v. State Farm Lloyds and Roy Talbert v. State Farm Lloyds, both Plaintiffs asserted claims against State Farm for damage to their homes arising out of the 2012 hailstorms that passed through Hidalgo County.  In both claims, the dispute focused on whether it was necessary to replace the spaced sheathing under the wood shake roof on the Talbert and Vela homes with a solid wood sheathing due to a Code requirement in the City of Mission, Texas.  Both claims were submitted to the appraisal process and in both claims the appraisal award included the cost of replacing the spaced sheathing with solid wood sheathing as part of the replacement of the roof.  State Farm paid all of the appraisal award with the exception of the cost of replacing the spaced sheeting with solid wood sheathing and in doing so issued a letter advising the Plaintiff that they were continuing their investigation as to whether or not there was in fact a Code requirement mandating that the spaced sheathing be replaced with solid wood sheathing.

On October 24, 2012, the City of Mission issued a letter indicating that it was their belief the International Residence Code required that the spaced sheathing had to be replaced with solid sheathing during the repair of a wood shake roof.  This letter was issued prior to the date of the Talbert and Vela appraisal awards.  On January 22, 2013, after the appraisal awards were paid with the exception of the cost of replacing the spaced sheathing with solid sheathing, the City of Mission issued a second letter correcting their previous belief and indicating that after conferring with the International Code Council they had been informed that replacement of the spaced sheathing with solid sheathing was not in fact required if the roof was being replaced.  Based on the second letter State Farm made their final decision that there was no coverage under the building ordinance or law coverage in the policy for the cost of replacing the spaced sheathing. 

The Court granted State Farm’s summary judgments as to both the Talbert and the Vela claim and in doing so rejected the arguments by Talbert and Vela that the October 24, 2012, letter constituted “enforcement” of a code causing them to incur additional costs in the repairs to their home.  The Court accepted the argument made by State Farm that because in the absence of evidence of actual enforcement of a Code provision by some affirmative action involving the execution of building standards and withholding permits for construction then the building and ordinance coverage was not invoked.  State Farm argued (and the Court appears to have accepted the argument) that there must be some form of positive action undertaken by City officials to actually enforce the Code before this coverage provision is triggered.  The phrase “enforcement of a Code” in the building and ordinance coverage is not based on what the Code technically says or is believed to say but upon what municipal enforcement officials actually require in that jurisdiction.

A similar summary judgment was previously granted to State Farm on this exact same issue in Cause No. 7:13-cv-00183, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, McAllen Division.  Toney v. State Farm Lloyds.

[Editor’s Note: Todd Lonergan and Chris Martin of MDJW had the privilege of representing State Farm in both of these matters and proved that is possible to win a summary judgment in state court in Hidalgo County before Judge Reyna.  We thank State Farm for the opportunity to protect its interests in these matters.]

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