Appellate Division Offers Expansive View of Damages in Homeowner's Claim
In a case involving damages where a defendant’s negligence caused a homeowner to be displaced, the Appellate Division recently held that the homeowner’s damages were not limited to the cost of alternate shelter and they could seek additional damages resulting from the loss of the use of their homes or any other reasonable damages caused by the inconvenience. Certain Underwriters at Lloyds v PSEG, et al.
In February 2014, a winter storm caused a high voltage power line belonging to defendant PSE&G to fall and ignite fires in plaintiffs’ homes. They were displaced from their homes for ten months. While plaintiffs were reimbursed the repair costs by their homeowners’ insurance, their suit also sought damages for the loss of use of their homes.
The trial Court dismissed plaintiffs’ claim, agreeing with PSE&G that plaintiffs were undamaged beyond the compensation provided by their insurers. The Appellate Division reversed and held that the mere fact that plaintiffs were provided motel rooms and reimbursed meal and transportation costs by their insurance carriers did not foreclose their right to seek other damages resulting from the loss of the use of their homes or any other reasonable damages caused by the inconvenience.
The Appellate Division did not provide a measuring stick for the damages. The Court pointed out that each plaintiff alleged certain disturbances of their lives beyond the mere cost of being displaced from their homes and while PSE&G could argue that some or all of the damages were inappropriate or extravagant, the validity of the damages claims was for a jury.