Dowling v. Home Buyers Warranty Corp., II, 23314

Decision Date21 January 1991
Docket NumberNo. 23314,23314
Citation303 S.C. 295,400 S.E.2d 143
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesChristopher DOWLING and Flor Maria Dowling, Appellants, v. HOME BUYERS WARRANTY CORPORATION, II, a Colorado Corporation, Respondent.

J. McCutchen Stuckey, Mt. Pleasant, for appellants.

W. Andrew Gowder, Jr., of Wise and Cole, Charleston, for respondent.

GREGORY, Chief Justice:

This is an action to recover damages for a bad faith refusal to pay benefits. The trial judge granted respondent summary judgment. We reverse.

Appellants (the Dowlings) purchased a home built by Great Southern Builders of Charleston, Inc. (Builder) for $60,150. At the time of closing, the Dowlings and Builder signed an application to enroll the home in a warranty program as required in order to obtain Veteran's Administration financing. The warranty contract is with respondent (Home Buyers).

Soon after moving into their new home, the Dowlings discovered a severe problem with flooding during heavy rainfall. Investigation revealed their house was built 2.8 feet below the minimum required elevation. The Dowlings filed a claim with Home Buyers for the cost of rebuilding the home at the proper elevation. Home Buyers refused the claim on the ground the defect was not covered by the policy.

As provided in the policy, the parties submitted to arbitration which resulted in a finding against coverage. The Dowlings then commenced this suit to recover damages under the warranty contract and for bad faith refusal to pay benefits. On Home Buyers' motion for summary judgment, the trial judge denied summary judgment on the breach of contract cause of action and granted it on the bad faith cause of action.

An insured may recover damages for a bad faith denial of coverage if he or she proves there was no reasonable basis to support the insurer's decision to deny benefits under a mutually binding insurance contract. Varnadore v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 289 S.C. 155, 345 S.E.2d 711 (1986); Nichols v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 279 S.C. 336, 306 S.E.2d 616 (1983).

The contract in question here provides it is for "limited warranty and insurance coverage." The contract protects the consumers for defects in the specified home if the builder does not perform his warranty obligations. The consumers have certain obligations under the contract such as timely notice of defect and payment of a non-refundable claim deductible.

Under Paragraph I. entitled, "What is Covered," the contract provides coverage for "defects in materials or workmanship." Paragraph VI. lists twelve exclusions for defects to which coverage does not apply. There is no exclusion for failure to build at the proper elevation. The contract further provides:

The following Construction Quality Standards are standards that have been developed and accepted by the residential construction industry in general. While it is virtually impossible to develop a construction standard for each possible deficiency the construction industry and Home Buyers Warranty have...

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15 cases
  • Strother v. Lexington County Recreation Com'n
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • September 11, 1996
    ...Co. of Minnesota v. Christian, 267 S.C. 71, 226 S.E.2d 240 (1976). Id. at 421-22, 392 S.E.2d at 462. Dowling v. Home Buyers Warranty Corporation, II, 303 S.C. 295, 400 S.E.2d 143 (1991), It is axiomatic summary judgment should not be granted unless there is no genuine issue of material fact......
  • Cock-N-Bull Steak House, Inc. v. Generali Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • October 5, 1995
    ...basis to support the insurer's decision to deny benefits under a mutually binding insurance contract." Dowling v. Home Buyers Warranty Corp., 303 S.C. 295, 297, 400 S.E.2d 143, 144 (1991) (citing Varnadore v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 289 S.C. 155, 345 S.E.2d 711 (1986); Nichols v. State Fa......
  • Agape Senior Primary Care, Inc. v. Evanston Ins. Co., C/A: 3:16–1610–JFA
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • January 19, 2018
    ...Casualty Ins. Co. , No. 7:12-CV-146-HMH, 2012 WL 4903661, at *7 (D.S.C. Oct. 15, 2012) (citing Dowling v. Home Buyers Warranty Corp. , 303 S.C. 295, 297, 400 S.E.2d 143, 144 (1991) ). Here, Evanston's decision regarding coverage was incorrect, but this court is not prepared to say there was......
  • Jordan v. Allstate Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • August 16, 2016
    ...to support the insurer's decision to deny benefits under a mutually binding insurance contract." Dowling v. Home Buyers Warranty Corp., II, 303 S.C. 295, 297, 400 S.E.2d 143, 144 (1991). At her deposition, Plaintiff testified she never would have accepted any settlement amount for less than......
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