This appeal brings up for review an order of the Superior Court staying the action until completion of appraisal proceedings pursuant to the terms of a policy of fire insurance.
Carol Lee Hanby, Trustee for David S. M. Hanby, and Carol Lee Hanby, Trustee for Hillery A. R. Hanby (plaintiff), is the owner of real property in Wilmington which was insured against fire and rental income loss by Maryland Casualty Company (defendant). The premises were substantially damaged by fire on May 29, 1969. Thereafter representatives of the parties entered into negotiations looking toward restoration of the premises. Each side secured an estimate of the cost of repair and for present purposes it is sufficient to say that there was a difference of several thousand dollars between the two figures. When it appeared that an agreement was not going to be reached, plaintiff filed suit on September 12, 1969. On October 6 counsel for Maryland advised plaintiff's counsel that defendant desired appraisal to determine the amount of loss. On December 23 the Superior Court, on Maryland's motion and over plaintiff's objections, entered the order staying all proceedings until appraisal was completed in accordance with the contract of insurance. This appeal followed.
We first consider Maryland's argument that the appeal should be dismissed since the order entered below was not appealable.
It is settled law that an interlocutory order is not appealable unless it does two things: it must determine a substantial issue in the cause and it must establish a legal right. Pepsico, Inc. v. Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Asbury Park, Del.Supr., 261 A.2d 520 (1969); Nadler v. Bohen, Del.Supr., 238 A.2d 836 (1968). And it is equally settled law that the grant or denial of a stay by a trial court lies within the discretion of that court. General Foods Corporation v. Cryo-Maid, Inc., 41 Del.Ch. 474, 198 A.2d 681 (1964); Auerbach v. Cities Service Company, 37 Del.Ch. 381, 143 A.2d 904 (1958); Lanova Corporation v. Atlas Imperial Diesel Engine Co., 5 Terry 593, 64 A.2d 419 (1949). But it does not follow in every case that the granting of a stay is not appealable. On the contrary, this Court will examine the basis on which the trial court granted the stay and, if a substantial issue was determined and a legal right established,
Applying this test, we conclude that an appeal lies from the order below. Plaintiff had argued that Maryland waived its right to appraisal by waiting more than a reasonable time before asking for it. The Court rejected that argument and, in effect, left the parties to proceed with appraisal in accordance with what the Court said was their own agreement. The ruling thus foreclosed later argument on the question of waiver and, in our view, that settled a substantive legal right adverse to plaintiff.
We turn now to the merits. The policy issued by Maryland provided in part as follows:
The policy does not state the time within which demand for appraisal must be made and it therefore must be made within a reasonable time. Annot: Time for Appraisal, 14 A.L.R.3d 674. What is a reasonable time depends, of course, on the circumstances.
Plaintiff argues that good faith negotiations by Maryland did not continue beyond July 24 and, while the point is not quite clear, plaintiff apparently dates a reasonable time from that day. And she says that the absence of good faith negotiations prejudiced her by adding to her rental losses, to the cost of restoration, and by requiring her to employ counsel.
We omit a detailed analysis of the complete briefs and appendices which the parties filed. It is sufficient to say that our review of the record confirms the conclusion of the trial Court: the parties failed to agree on settlement of the loss, there was some intractableness on each
In sum, we agree with the conclusion of the trial Court that neither the passage of time nor the circumstances surrounding negotiations resulted in waiver as a matter of law.
Plaintiff also argues that the question of waiver was a factual one for jury determination. That is true as a general proposition but in the context of this case the question is entirely one of law. Whether Maryland has a contract right to have the amount of loss determined by appraisal preliminary to the filing (or prosecution) of an action was fairly and necessarily addressed to the Court at the pre-trial stage. And, obviously, at that time only the Court could determine whether the case should be stayed pending appraisal.
Finally, plaintiff argues that the Court below was mistaken because it did not hold that the appraisal procedure ousted it of jurisdiction. Citing Electrical Research Products, Inc. v. Vitaphone Corp., 29 Del.Ch. 417, 171 A. 738 (1934), and Motor Terminals v. National Car Co., 92 F.Supp. 155 (D.Del.1949), the Court said that mandatory arbitration which deprives a court of jurisdiction over certain disputes has not been upheld in Delaware. Those cases must be read in light of this Court's recent decision in Ruckman & Hansen, Inc. v. Delaware River & Bay Author., Del.Supr., 244 A.2d 277 (1968), holding that when parties to a contract agree to submit differences under that contract to an arbitrator, his decision, in the absence of fraud, is final and will not be re-examined by a court. We are not called upon to make that reading, however, because the Court has and will retain jurisdiction over the matter. There has been no ouster of jurisdiction because the question of Maryland's liability and the extent of it must still be determined by the Superior Court. Appraisal will determine the amount of loss and the Court then may be called upon to determine what effect should be given to the findings of the appraisers. And as to that, we express no opinion.
We find no error in the conclusion reached by the trial Court and, accordingly, its order is affirmed.