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Workmanship and Earth Movement Exclusions Preclude Coverage for Collapse As a Matter of Law

A U.S. federal district court recently granted Peerless Insurance’s summary judgment motion, concluding that, as a matter of law, under Virginia law, a property policy insuring a building under renovation would not provide coverage for a collapsed basement wall due to a subcontractor’s lack of shoring,. Taja Investments LLC v. Peerless Ins. Co. a/k/a Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., Civ. No. 1:15-cv-01647, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95760 (E. D. VA, July 21, 2016). The plaintiff insured, Taja Investments, was a construction company, which was excavating a 4-5 foot crawlspace under a building to create a space with a 9 foot depth in order to allow for additional living areas. The insured’s claim arose out of the collapse of one of the basement

Posted in Coverage, Earth Movement, Exclusions, Faulty Workmanship or Design

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

Under Illinois Law, Mine Subsidence Held to Be a Type of Excluded Earth Movement

Ever since Mattis v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 118 Ill.App.3d 612, 73 Ill.Dec. 907, 454 N.E.2d 1156 (1983), Illinois courts have held that an earth movement exclusion contained in a first-party policy applies only to earth movement due to natural causes.  At the beginning of this month, however, a federal court in Missouri construing Illinois Law found otherwise with respect to mine subsidence.  In Hutchinson v. Pacific Indem. Co., 2015 WL 5139183, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112239 (E.D.Mo., Sep. 1, 2015), the court held that an earth movement exclusion was unambiguous and clearly barred coverage for such a loss. The policyholders owned a home in Alton, Illinois that was totally destroyed by “a mine subsidence event” on May

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Posted in Ambiguity, Earth Movement, Exclusions, Subsidence

Tennessee Court: Requirement that Insurers “Make Available” Sinkhole Coverage Does Not Require Policyholders Be Notified

Since 2007, Tennessee statutes have required that homeowners carriers “make available” insurance coverage for sinkhole losses.  Last Friday in  Patterson v. Shelter Mut. Ins. Co., 2015 Tenn. App. LEXIS 734, 2015 WL 5320231 (Tenn.Ct.App., Sep. 11, 2015), a unanimous panel of the state’s intermediate level appellate court rejected arguments that this required that policyholders be notified of that fact, however, finding that the term meant only that such coverage must be “accessible or obtainable” upon request. The insureds alleged that their home was damaged by sinkhole activity in March of 2011.  The insurer denied, contending, inter alia, that while the contract of insurance did not expressly include or exclude sinkhole loss, it did bar coverage for damage caused by “the

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Posted in Earth Movement, Homeowners Coverage, Regulation, Sinkhole
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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