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Fifth Circuit: Total Loss Amount Caps Insured’s Recovery Even Under Multiple Policies Covering Different Risks

We don’t usually cover cases dealing with Standard Flood Insurance Policies (SFIPs) issued pursuant to the National Flood Insurance Program, but a Texas case decided by the federal Court of Appeals earlier this month addresses a broader issue – where the policyholder has multiple policies covering the same property against mutually exclusive risks, such as an SFIP covering flood and a homeowner’s policy covering wind, can his or her recovery ever exceed the total loss amount.  In Lowery v. Fidelity Nat’l. Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 2015 WL 6848323, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 19443 (5th Cir., Nov. 6, 2015), a unanimous panel of the Fifth Circuit answered no, in reliance on the insurance principle that bars a double recovery. The

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Posted in Actual Cash Value, Depreciation, Flood, Homeowners Coverage, Hurricane, Hurricane Ike, Replacement Cost, Valuation, Water, Windstorm

Hurricanes vs. Wildfires — 2015’s Dramatic Contrast

Two of this blog’s four rotating headers depict a hurricane and a fire as examples of potentially-destructive types of property damage, and the hurricane season (June through November) and the wildfire season (late spring through mid-fall) are both well under way.  This year has brought good news to the east coast with respect to the former and catastrophically bad news to the west coast with respect to the latter. There are obviously many reasons for this.  The west is undergoing a historically severe drought; the snowpack in California is currently 5% of what it should be.  The region is also suffering from extreme heat; 2015 is the second warmest year ever recorded in Alaska, and temperatures in the west as

Posted in Fire, Hurricane, Wildfire

New Jersey Judge Writes a Primer on How Not to Draft a Denial Letter

Last month, a federal trial court in New Jersey shot down an insurer’s arguments that it had unambiguously denied coverage for Superstorm Sandy damage in a letter to the insured.  In Liguori v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyds, 2015WL 4402851. 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93090 (D.N.J., Jul. 17, 2015),  the judge found that correspondence announcing that the carrier was “pleased to inform you” that wind damage was covered while flood was “expressly excluded” and concluding with what he called an “open-ended statement that the letter could be amended should new information become available” simply did not pass muster as a formal denial. The insureds owned a home in Seaside Heights that was demolished by the storm on October 29, 2012, and

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Posted in Homeowners Coverage, Hurricane, Loss Adjustment, Suit Limitation, Superstorm Sandy

Texas Supreme Court Enforces Anti-Concurrent Causation, Bars Coverage Where Wind and Flood Combine to Cause the Loss

Last Friday, Texas’ highest court unanimously endorsed lower court and federal court decisions giving effect to anti-concurrent causation (ACC) clauses and held that such provisions bar coverage where a combination of an excluded peril and an included peril operate together to cause the loss.  In JAW The Pointe, LLC v. Lexington Ins. Co., 2015 WL 1870054, 2015 Tex. LEXIS 343 (Tex., Apr. 24, 2015), that meant that the insured could not recover where flood and wind damage triggered the enforcement of city ordinances even though the covered wind damage component was arguably sufficient in and of itself to cause the loss. The policyholder owned The Pointe Apartments – a complex in Galveston, Texas that was heavily damaged when Hurricane Ike

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Posted in Anti-Concurrent Causation, Causation, Flood, Hurricane, Hurricane Ike, Ordinance or Law, Windstorm

Late Notice Held to Bar a $6,000,000 Hurricane Wilma Claim in Florida

In The Yacht Club on the Intracoastal Condo. Ass’n. v. Lexington Ins. Co., –  Fed.Appx. –, 2015 WL 106862, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 293 (11h Cir., Jan. 8, 2015), a unanimous panel of the Eleventh Circuit recently held that a Florida condominium association’s multi-million claim for extensive Hurricane Wilma damage was barred because the insured failed to give notice of loss for fully 55 months.  The policyholder’s arguments that it was initially unaware that the damage exceeded the deductible and that it had created an issue of fact with respect to whether the presumption of prejudice had been rebutted because both parties were ultimately able to put up expert evidence of causation were unavailing. The Yacht Club had 380 units

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Posted in Conditions, Hurricane, Hurricane Wilma, Investigation, Notice, Prejudice

Anti-Sequential Causation Clause Upheld in Hurricane Irene Case in New Jersey

In Ashrit Realty, LLC v. Tower National Ins. Co., 2015 WL 248490, 2015 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 107 (N.J.Super.Ct., App.Div., Jan. 20,  2015), New Jersey’s Appellate Division held that an anti-concurrent/anti-sequential causation clause precluded coverage for a Hurricane Irene loss.  A covered peril (hidden decay) led to an excluded peril (soil erosion), bringing down part of the insured’s structure.  As the court explained, such a provision “excludes coverage in situations where a covered event and an excluded event contribute, concurrently or sequentially, to a single loss.”  While the New Jersey Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on anti-concurrent/anti-sequential causation clauses, the case adds to growing body of lower court decisions holding or suggesting that such provisions are valid and

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Posted in Anti-Concurrent Causation, Causation, Collapse, Hurricane, Hurricane Irene, Seepage or Leakage

New Jersey Court Holds $22 Million “Named Storm” Deductible Applicable to a Superstorm Sandy Loss

On October 29th, a New Jersey trial court held that a commercial policyholder’s Superstorm Sandy claims were subject to a $22 million “named storm” deductible equal to 2% of the total insurable values at risk at all of the loss locations for which the insured made claim.  In Wakefern Food Corp., et al. v. Lexington Ins. Co., Case No. L-6483-13 (N.J.Super.Ct., Middlesex Cty., Oct. 29, 2014), the court held that damage had begun to occur hours before Sandy was downgraded and no longer constituted a “named storm” as defined and that that fact “created a substantial nexus between the storm and Wakefern’s total losses” justifying application of the deductible. Plaintiff Wakefern was a buying cooperative consisting of the owners of

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Posted in Deductible, Hurricane, Superstorm Sandy

Florida Property Manager’s Insurable Interest Is Limited To Its Fees

In Banta Properties, Inc. v. Arch Specialty, Ins. Co., —Fed.  Appx.— , 2014 WL 274478 (11th Cir., January 24, 2014), the Eleventh Circuit recently  held that a property manager’s insurable interest in the apartment complexes that it managed was limited to the income that it was entitled to receive under its contracts with the buildings’ owners.  Under Florida statutes, the measure of insurable interest is the loss that the policyholder might sustain from damage to the property, and that was held to preclude the property manager from asserting such an interest and recovering on its own behalf for the property damage that the apartments sustained from Hurricane Wilma. In October of 2005, Hurricane Wilma damaged three apartment complexes in Broward

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Posted in Additional Insureds, Hurricane, Insurable Interest
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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