Stutman Law recently settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of its client against the City of Gastonia, North Carolina for $760,000.00. Stutman Law’s client insured a historic building that was undergoing renovations when a fire service line froze and burst. A few days after the initial break, warmer temperatures caused the frozen pipe to thaw, which resulted in water flowing unrestricted throughout the building. Stutman Law alleged that the City’s negligence caused the water loss. The City denied liability, claiming the plaintiff’s insured was contributorily negligent and asserting a governmental immunity defense.
The case was aggressively litigated and defended, with an exchange of extensive paper discovery and numerous depositions. The City eventually sought summary judgment on the basis of governmental immunity. Stutman Law argued that the City waived immunity because it purchased liability insurance. However, the City countered that the policy it purchased contained a non-waiver of immunity, which preserved its governmental immunity status. The City relied on caselaw favorable to its position involving nearly identical policy language. Despite the existence of this caselaw, Stutman Law undertook additional discovery to identify material differences between the subject case and the cases previously decided and relied upon by the City. The Court subsequently denied the City’s motion for summary judgment, and the suit was settled before trial.