from the Superior Court in Coconino County No.
S0300CV201700313 The Honorable Jacqueline Hatch, Judge,
Humphrey & Yavitz PLC, Phoenix By Randall S. Yavitz,
Isabel M. Humphrey Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants
Broening Oberg Woods & Wilson PC, Phoenix By Robert T.
Sullivan, John C. Quinn, Alicyn M. Freeman Counsel for
Michael J. Brown delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Presiding Judge Diane M. Johnsen and Judge Jennifer M.
In this opinion we address whether the superior court
properly dismissed an insurance claim for property damage
caused by feral cats based on a domestic-animal exclusion in
the insurance policy at issue. Because the feral cats that
caused the damage are not domestic animals under all
reasonable interpretations of the facts alleged in the
complaint, the court erred in granting the insurer's
motion to dismiss. We therefore reverse and remand for
Joel and Kim Goldberger ("the Goldbergers") own
residential rental property in Flagstaff, insured by State
Farm Fire and Casualty Company ("State Farm") under
a rental dwelling policy ("Policy"). The
Goldbergers filed a claim asserting their tenant
"allowed" feral cats "to access" the
property and the cats then caused approximately $75,000 of
"accidental damage." State Farm denied the claim,
asserting "feral cats are domestic animals and therefore
the damage was not covered under the Policy."
The Goldbergers then filed this lawsuit, alleging breach of
contract and insurance bad faith. State Farm moved to dismiss
the complaint for failure to state a claim, arguing the
Policy's plain language precluded coverage. State Farm
based its denial of coverage on subsection 1.N of the Policy
("Exclusion"), which provides that accidental
losses caused by "birds, vermin, rodents, insects or
domestic animals" are not covered. The superior court
granted the motion, reasoning in part: (1) a cat, feral or
not, is a domestic animal; (2) these feral cats were acting
as if they were domesticated; and (3) a reasonably
intelligent consumer would understand the Exclusion to
unambiguously apply to damage caused by feral cats. This
timely appeal followed.
A party may move to dismiss a claim for "failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Ariz.
R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). In evaluating a claim's sufficiency,
we take as true "all well-pleaded factual allegations
and indulge all reasonable inferences from those facts,"
but need not accept conclusory statements. Coleman v.
City of Mesa, 230 Ariz. 352, 356, ¶ 9 (2012). A
court should dismiss a claim only if, under any
interpretation of the well-pleaded facts, the plaintiff would
not be entitled to relief. Id. at ¶ 8. Our
review is de novo. Id. at 355, ¶ 7.
Several of State Farm's arguments rely on the assumption
that these cats were peaceably living in the home with the
tenant. The superior court, at least in part, appeared to
follow State Farm's lead. A court deciding a Rule
12(b)(6) motion, however, must "look only to the
pleading itself," Cullen v. Auto-Owners Ins.
Co., 218 Ariz. 417, 419, ¶ 7 (2008), including
documents that "are central to the complaint,"
Strategic Dev. & Constr., Inc. v. 7th & Roosevelt
Partners, LLC, 224 Ariz. 60, 64, ¶ 14 (App. 2010),
such as the Policy. Because we limit our review to the
complaint and the Policy, we proceed without characterizing
the feral cats' behavior or any care the tenant may have
afforded them beyond what the complaint alleges-that the
tenant "allowed [the cats] to access the property."
To the extent State Farm's arguments on appeal depend on
facts not alleged in the complaint, they necessarily fail.
Interpretation of the Exclusion
We review de novo the interpretation of an insurance policy.
Teufel v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co.,244 Ariz. 383,
385, ¶ 10 (2018). A policy term is ambiguous if it is
susceptible to two or more reasonable interpretations that
conflict. Id. We examine policy language "from
the viewpoint of one not trained in law or in the insurance
business." Sparks v. Republic Nat'l Life Ins.
Co.,132 Ariz. 529, 534 (1982). But "even if a
policy is apparently ambiguous, a decision to require
coverage follows [only] after consideration of
'legislative goals, social policy, and examination of the
transaction as a whole.'" Emp'rs Mut. Cas.
Co. v. DGG & CAR, Inc.,218 Ariz. 262, 264, ¶ 9
(2008) (citation omitted); see also Teufel, 244
Ariz. at 386, ¶ 17 (noting a court may consider common
meanings and an insured's reasonable expectations when
resolving an apparent ...