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Matusevich v. Middlesex Mutual Assurance Co.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

April 1, 2015

JACOB MATUSEVICH, Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
MIDDLESEX MUTUAL ASSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant, Appellee, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY, Defendant

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. George A. O'Toole, U.S. District Judge.

AFFIRMED.

Seth H. Hochbaum, with whom Regnante, Sterio & Osborne LLP, was on brief, for appellant.

Joseph J. Aguda, Jr., with whom Gerald J. Nielsen, Nielsen Carter & Treas, LLC, David W. Zizik, and Zizik, Powers, O'Connell, Spaulding & LaMontagne PC, were on brief, for appellee.

Before Lynch, Chief Judge, Torruella and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 57

TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.

This case arises from Appellee Middlesex Mutual Assurance Company's (" Middlesex Mutual" ) denial of Appellant Jacob Matusevich's flood loss claim following a flood that damaged the lower level of his home and numerous belongings. After the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment, the district court granted Middlesex Mutual's motion and denied Matusevich's. Matusevich now appeals, arguing that the district court erred in holding that the lower level of his home qualified as a " basement" under the Standard Flood Insurance Policy (" SFIP" ) issued by Middlesex Mutual and authorized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (" FEMA" ) as part of the National Flood Insurance Program (" NFIP" ). Finding no error with the district court's interpretation of the SFIP, we affirm.

I. Background

A. The National Flood Insurance Program

In the 1960s, there was a concern that, due to the high costs and damages associated with floods, private insurers were not providing adequate flood insurance in many areas prone to flooding. See 42 U.S.C. § 4001(b)(1). To address this growing problem, Congress enacted the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (" NFIA" ). See id. § § 4001-4131. The NFIA, in turn, created the NFIP, which is administered by FEMA and backed by the federal treasury. Id. § § 4011(a), 4017(a). The purpose of the NFIP is, in part, to remedy the lack of flood insurance in flood-prone areas by offering subsidized flood insurance, thus increasing its availability. Id. § 4001(b).

The NFIP is also intended to change building practices in order to deter future flood risk -- and thus hopefully reduce future losses to life and property due to floods -- through the adoption of floodplain management and mitigation initiatives. Id. § § 4001(e), 4002(b)(3); 44 C.F.R. § 60.1.

The NFIP is administered by FEMA, which, in turn, is authorized to " prescribe regulations establishing the general method or methods by which proved and approved claims for losses may be adjusted and paid." 42 U.S.C. § 4019. Accordingly, in 1983, FEMA created the Write-Your-Own (" WYO" ) program, which allowed private insurance companies, such as Middlesex Mutual, to issue flood insurance policies as part of the NFIP. 44 C.F.R. § § 62.23-24. Under the WYO program, the companies are essentially administrators ...


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