Renters Insurance And Breach Of Contract

Irving insurance lawyers wishing to sue for breach of contract in an insurance dispute need to read this Houston Court of Appeals opinion styled, Zatorski v. USAA.
Zatorski owned a high-rise, loft residence in Houston. A kitchen pipe broke and flooded the loft. Zatorski rented a single-family home while the loft was being repaired, and he called USAA to buy a renter’s insurance policy. He spoke with a USAA representative, paid for a one-year renter’s insurance policy over the phone, and did not review the written policy when he received it.
Armed intruders broke into Zatorski’s rental home and stole several firearms and his safe, which contained watches, jewelry, and cash; the items stolen had a total value of over $260,000. Zatorski made a claim against his rental policy for the value of the stolen items, and USAA responded that the policy limits were $1,000 for theft of jewelry, $2,000 for theft of firearms, and $200 for theft of cash. USAA paid Zatorski $4,500, which constituted payment of the policy limits for jewelry, firearms, and cash, plus $1,300 for the loss of the safe.
Zatorski sued for breach of contract, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, unfair settlement practices, among other things. Zatorski alleged that he told the USAA representative that he wanted “full coverage” for all of the items that would be in his rental home, and specifically mentioned that he has “numerous luxury watches, jewelry, and flat-screen television monitors among other things.” According to Zatorski, the representative assured him that he would have “‘full coverage,’ including full coverage for the valuables, including the watches and other jewelry.” He asserted that USAA should be liable to him for the full value of all of the items stolen from his rental home.
USAA filed a motion for summary judgment which the trial court granted and this appeals court affirmed.
Zatorski argued that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on all of his claims for two reasons: (1) USAA’s representations that he had “full coverage” were sufficiently specific to be actionable, and (2) he overcame the presumption that he knew the contents of the policy by showing that he did not read the policy and instead relied upon USAA to provide a policy consistent with its representations.
The elements of a breach of contract are: (1) the existence of a valid contract; (2) performance or tendered performance by the plaintiff; (3) breach of the contract by the defendant; and (4) damages sustained by the plaintiff as a result of the breach.
The evidence included the rental policy, which provided a $2,000 limit for theft of firearms, a $1,000 limit for theft of jewelry, and a $200 limit for theft of money. The policy also provided that no changes to the coverage stated therein could be made except by USAA in writing. The evidence further showed that USAA tendered payment to Zatorski to the policy limits.
Zatorski contends that USAA breached the policy because it did not provide Zatorski with the full coverage that it promised to provide during Zatorski’s telephone conversation with the USAA representative. But Zatorski cannot rely on an alleged breach of a promise outside of the written contract to raise a fact issue on breach. Accordingly, summary judgment on Zatorski’s breach of contract claim was proper.

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