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RLI Ins. Co. v. Highlands on Ponce, LLC

Court of Appeals of Georgia

July 5, 2006, Decided



 [**169]   [*798]  Barnes, Judge.

Highlands on Ponce, LLC (“Highlands”) sued its insurer RLI Insurance Company because the insurer would only pay a portion of its claim following a fire. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted Highlands' motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of additional coverage, and denied RLI's corresponding motion seeking a declaratory judgment on the issue of the additional coverage. RLI appeals. Upon our review, we reverse.

] Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the opposing party must be given the benefit of all reasonable doubt, and the court must construe the evidence and all inferences and conclusions arising therefrom most favorably to the party opposing the motion. Moore v. Goldome Credit Corp., 187 Ga. App. 594, 596 (370 SE2d 843) (1988). However, “rules of contract construction and interpretation are separate [***2]  from those rules allocating burdens of proof at trial and on motion for summary judgment,” and thus are to be independently applied. Thomas v. American Global Ins. Co., 229 Ga. App. 107 (1) (493 SE2d 12) (1997).

This dispute arose after an April 30, 2001 fire involving apartments being constructed by Highlands. Highlands had purchased builder's risk insurance coverage through an insurance broker, McGriff, Seibels & Williams (“MSW”). RLI Insurance Company issued a builder's risk insurance policy to Highlands effective August 30, 2000 to June 30, 2002 showing $ 29,507,000 in blanket policy limits for any one occurrence. In April 2001, the apartments suffered extensive damage as a result of a fire, and RLI reimbursed Highlands $ 1,244,542  [*799]  for the losses sustained,  [**170]  including $ 100,000 in soft costs and $ 100,000 in lost business income.

Hard costs represent the amount it would take to physically repair or replace those items of constructed property damaged in the event of a loss. Soft costs include additional interest expense, property taxes, and advertising expense. Business income includes losses of rent during the period of reconstruction.

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280 Ga. App. 798 *; 635 S.E.2d 168 **; 2006 Ga. App. LEXIS 827 ***; 2006 Fulton County D. Rep. 2223


Subsequent History:  [***1]  Reconsiderations denied July 28, 2006.

Prior History: Builder's risk insurance. Fulton State Court. Before Judge Cole.

Disposition: Judgment reversed.


costs, coverage, soft, ambiguity, business income, limitation of liability, blanket, limits, summary judgment, trial court, parties, unambiguous, insurer, per occurrence, automatically, provisions

Civil Procedure, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Appropriateness, Contracts Law, Contract Interpretation, General Overview, Judgments, Evidentiary Considerations, Insurance Law, Policy Interpretation, Ambiguous Terms, Claim, Contract & Practice Issues, Entire Contract, Exclusions, Appeals, Standards of Review, Questions of Fact & Law, Parol Evidence