Commercial property insurance. Bibb Superior Court. Before Judge Colvin.
Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers, Thomas D. Martin, Arthur R. York, for appellant.
Handsford Law, Selinda D. Handsford, for appellee.
MILLER, Judge. Andrews, P. J., and Branch, J., concur.
Omni Health Solutions, LLC (" Omni" ) filed an insurance coverage claim with its insurer Zurich American Insurance Company (" Zurich" ) for hail damage to Omni's commercial property. When a dispute arose over the amount of the covered loss under Omni's policy (hereinafter the " Policy" ), Omni invoked the Policy's appraisal provision which provided for the appointment of two appraisers and an umpire. The original umpire resigned, however, after the discussions on the loss had begun, so the parties filed a joint petition in superior court for appointment of a new umpire. The superior court granted the parties' joint petition, and subsequently ruled that the appraisal awards made by the original umpire were not binding because there was a question regarding the original umpire's impartiality. Zurich appeals, contending, inter alia, that the superior court erred in ruling that the original umpire's appraisal awards were nonbinding. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part and reverse in part.
" Construction and interpretation of a contract are matters of law for the court." (Citation omitted.) Sewell v. Hull/Storey Dev., 241 Ga.App. 365, 366 (1) (526 S.E.2d 878) (1999).
The record shows that the Policy provided $2.7 million in commercial property coverage for Omni's building in Macon, Georgia (the " Insured Property" ). The Insured Property consisted of a 17,200 square foot building containing several doctors' offices. On February 14, 2011, while the Policy was in effect, the roof of the Insured Property was extensively damaged by hail, resulting in damage to the building's contents and equipment, as well as subsequent water and mold damage to the building's ceilings, walls and floors. The damage to the building also resulted in business interruption losses for the [332 Ga.App. 724] doctors and their offices. As a result of those losses, Omni filed an insurance claim with Zurich.
Zurich and Omni disputed the amount of the covered loss to the Insured Property. In order to resolve the dispute, an appraisal of the damage to the Insured Property was undertaken pursuant to the terms of the Policy, which pertinently provides:
If we and you disagree on the value of the property or the amount of loss, either may make written demand for an appraisal of the loss. In this event, each party will select a competent and impartial appraiser. The two appraisers will select an umpire. If they cannot agree, either may request that selection be made by a judge of a court having jurisdiction. The appraisers will state separately the value of the property and amount of loss. If they fail to agree, they will submit their difference to the umpire. A decision agreed to by any two will be binding.
The parties each named an appraiser, and the two named appraisers selected the original umpire to oversee the appraisal process. Thereafter, on October 8, 2012, the two appraisers and the original umpire agreed to an award of more than $800,000 for the structural damage to the Insured Property (the " Structural Damage Award" ). On December 14, 2012, Zurich's appraiser and the original umpire also agreed to an award of $322,445.61 for Omni's business interruption claim (hereinafter the " Business Interruption Award" ).
When the original umpire was initially appointed, he was an independent adjuster. At some point during the appraisal process, the original umpire joined a firm that performed work for Zurich. On December 20, 2012, at Omni's request, the original umpire stepped down from the appraisal process.
Since the appraisers were unable to agree on the selection of a new umpire, the parties filed a joint petition for appointment of a new umpire by the superior court. Following a hearing, the superior court appointed a new umpire to oversee the ...