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SEGAL v. GREAT AMERICAN INS. CO.

March 5, 1974

Helen SEGAL, Plaintiff,
v.
GREAT AMERICAN INSURANCE CO., Defendant


Dooling, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: DOOLING

DOOLING, District Judge.

Plaintiff is one of the named insureds under the defendant's Flood Insurance Policy issued pursuant to the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. § 4001 et seq. The action was instituted pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 4053.

 The action is brought to recover for damages to a rug located in the den of the plaintiff's home at 137 Larch Drive, New Hyde Park, New York.

 The evidence is clear that on the day in question, which was either April 3d or perhaps April 4th, 1973, rain fell heavily in the area of plaintiff's residence. The house is a "split level" house; the den, or recreation room, is located at roughly the same level as the two-car garage and is at the lower of the two levels of the house. On one side of the den is a pair of sliding glass doors in metal frames that look out on a paved terrace or patio. The patio has two drains in it and is bordered or framed by a retaining wall comprised of one course of brick, best seen in Exhibit C. This very low retaining wall enclosed the terrace or patio along the left side as one looks out through the glass doors from the den, runs across the side of the patio opposite the sliding glass doors, then turns and comes down the right side to where steps lead up to the kitchen of the split level house. Just outside the sliding glass doors and running the width of the masonry opening in the wall in which the glass doors were set is a low wall, one course high, of bricks that runs from one side of the masonry opening to the other so as to create a sort of dam across the opening in the masonry in which the sliding glass doors and their framing are fitted. There are a few inches of clearance between this low brick wall and the sliding doors, best seen in Exhibit E.

 A recent survey shows that the ground rises back of the patio to a high point about 19 inches higher than the deck of the patio and about 18 inches higher than the floor of the den. To the left or blind side of the den the ground falls away very slightly. It falls away also to the right of the patio from the high point at the rear of the yard, but still is at such points some 10 inches higher than the deck of the patio and some 9 inches higher than the floor of the den.

 On the day in question the rain fell very heavily and it is found that it rose to a height in the patio sufficient so that it came across the very low dam into the den and soaked the rug. It resulted in such damage to the rug that it cost plaintiff $226.84 to have it taken out, cleaned and put down again, and to replace the pad under the rug.

 The evidence warrants the conclusion that the heavy rainfall did not drain from the patio but the rain water accumulated within the enclosure formed by the retaining wall of the patio until the water, perhaps with the aid of wind, flowed across and over the low brick wall outside the sliding glass doors and into the den.

 The patio has two drains in it. These were installed when the patio was installed more than eight years ago, but, probably, at some time after the house was built, which appears to have been about twenty years ago. It is not suggested that the drains were improperly laid or were inadequate to carry off normal rainfalls, but they were not adequate on the occasion in question to drain off the water either because they were stopped up or because of the quantity of rain that fell. Plaintiff testified that the drain was occasionally cleaned, and there is no evidence at all to support an inference that the drains were not functioning as usual at the time in question.

 Neither of the properties adjacent to plaintiff's property (which was one house down from the corner) had flooding conditions on the day in question. Plaintiff testified without contradiction that the rainstorm did cause some flooding in other houses in the neighborhood, but she did not particularize the nature of the flooding or what sorts of properties it affected.

 The sole issue raised by defendant is the issue of coverage.

 The policy insures to the extent of the actual cash value of the property at the time of loss, but not exceeding the cost of repair or replacement,

 
"against all DIRECT LOSS BY 'FLOOD' as defined herein, to the property described while located or contained as described."

 "Flood" is defined as follows:

 
"Wherever in this policy the term 'flood' occurs it shall be held to mean a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of normally dry land areas from (1) the overflow of inland or tidal waters, (2) the unusual and rapid accumulation or ...

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