Blog Archives

Coverage to Rebuild a Foundation to Comply with Changed Building Codes Following a Fire are Subject to Code-Upgrade Endorsement’s Sublimit

Does the efficient proximate cause rule serve to afford coverage for the additional costs to rebuild the foundation of a home in compliance with changed building code requirements beyond the sublimit of liability of an optional building ordinance or law endorsement?  In an opinion ordered published on December 21, 2016, the Washington Court of Appeals said no, denying a homeowner the full cost of a new foundation as part of the repair of fire damage. Lesure v. Farmers Ins. Co. of Washington, Wash. App. No. 48045-0-II, 9/20/16 (ordered published 12/21/16). Loretta Lesure insured her home under a policy issued by Farmers Insurance Company of Washington. Coverage A of the policy covered the cost to repair or replace the dwelling up

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Posted in Efficient Proximate Cause

Is a Rock a Landslide? Montana Supreme Court Says Yes

In a recent decision, the Montana Supreme Court upheld application of an Earth Movement exclusion to bar coverage for damage to a home when a single large boulder rolled down a hill and smashed into it. In doing so, the court gave the words of the exclusion their plain and ordinary meaning, refusing to give them a strained interpretation in order to find an ambiguity. Russell Parker owned a vacation home near Sheridan, Montana. In March 2014, a large boulder fell from a hillside about 440 feet uphill from the cabin and smashed into the structure. Parker had insurance with Safeco and he submitted a claim. Safeco hired an engineer who traced the path of the boulder back to its

Posted in Coverage, Earth Movement, Exclusions

More Common Sense: Coverage for Collapse Requires More Than an Engineer’s Finding of Substantial Impairment

In February this blog commented on Washington State’s newly-adopted definition of “collapse” in property insurance policies that contain no specific definition of the term. (Observer, February 8, 2016, Common Sense Prevails:  State of Collapse Nonexistent Thirteen Years before Discovery of Decay)  At issue was the building owner’s attempt to tap its property policy’s coverage for collapse when hidden decay, although severe, did not result in the building falling down. Under Washington’s new definition, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found no collapse of a condominium building that remained in use and occupied seventeen years after the insurance policy expired and severe decay allegedly developed. Queen Anne Park Homeowner’s Ass’n v. State Farm, 633 F. Appx. 415 (9th Cir. 2016). On

Posted in Collapse, Hidden Decay

Common Sense Prevails: State of Collapse Nonexistent Thirteen Years before Discovery of Decay

For years, property insurance policies that exclude rot damage have been called upon to cover rot because the policies extend coverage to “collapse”—an undefined term—caused by hidden decay, even if the structure remains standing and in use. The Homeowners Association of the Queen Anne Park Condominium in Seattle discovered decay within the walls of its buildings in 2011. State Farm insured the Association with policies effective between 1992 and 1998. The policies excluded coverage for rot, but covered “collapse” caused by hidden decay. The Association argued that its buildings were in a state of collapse in or before 1998 and that State Farm covered the decay damage. State Farm denied the claim and the Association sued in federal court in

Posted in Uncategorized

“Insanity Defense” Fails To Preserve Coverage For Insured’s Arson

Missouri resident James Roller set fire to his garage in an attempt to commit suicide.  When smoke and fumes surrounded him he changed his mind, fled the garage, and alerted his wife of the fire.  Mrs. Roller called 911.  A sheriff’s deputy escorted Mr. Roller to “protective custody” and obtained a 96-hour mental health detention order from the court.  Mr. Roller was treated at a hospital. The garage sustained severe fire damage.  Mrs. Roller notified the Rollers’ homeowners’ insurer, American Modern Home Insurance Company (AMHIC).  An independent adjuster inspected the damage, took photographs, obtained a statement from Mrs. Roller, and estimated the replacement cost of the garage to be $21,240.  AMHIC’s adjuster reserved the company’s rights and continued to investigate. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Washington Supreme Court Misses Opportunity to Clarify the Meaning Of “Collapse”

Washington State has long been a jurisdiction with no judicial pronouncement as to the meaning of the term “collapse” in a property insurance policy, but that changed last Thursday when the state’s Supreme Court issued its decision in Queen Anne Park Homeowners Ass’n v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 2015 WL 3795796, 2015 Wash. LEXIS 695 (Wash., Jun. 18, 2015).  The court found that the term, as used in the insurance policy before it, was ambiguous.  It then adopted a definition of “collapse,” but its use of uncertain terms in that definition may only lead to further ambiguity, and the likely result will be yet more expensive litigation concerning older policies that contain similar “collapse” language. The Queen Anne

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Posted in Ambiguity, Collapse, Hidden Decay
About The Property Insurance Law Observer
For more than four decades, Cozen O’Connor has represented all types of property insurers in jurisdictions throughout the United States, and it is dedicated to keeping its clients abreast of developments that impact the insurance industry. The Property Insurance Law Observer will survey court decisions, enacted or proposed legislation, and regulatory activities from all 50 states. We will also include commentary on current issues and developing trends of interest to first-party insurers.
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