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Utah Court: Seepage Over A Months-Long Period Is Excluded As Moral Hazard

Two weeks ago in Wheeler v. Allstate Ins. Co., 2015 WL 5714392, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131736 (C.D.Utah, Sep. 29, 2015), a Utah court barred coverage for a mold loss caused when a vacant log cabin suffered a long-term water leak.  The policy excluded “seepage or leakage over a period of weeks, months or years,” and the judge held that that language embodied the concept that such a loss was a moral hazard – a preventable risk best assumed by the policyholder rather than by his or her homeowners insurer. The insured owned a seasonal cabin in Duck Creek that was not used during the winter months, and his practice was to leave both the water and the heat turned

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Posted in Ambiguity, Exclusions, Inherent Vice and Latent Defect, Mold, Moral Hazard, Seepage or Leakage, Water, Wear and Tear

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: Loss of Use – Without More – Can Be “Direct Physical Loss or Damage”

Last month, a New Jersey federal court held that the term “direct physical loss of or damage to” property did not require that the property be physically altered in any permanent way.  In Gregory Packaging, Inc. v. Travelers Property Cas. Co., 2014 WL 6675934, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165232 (D.N.J., Nov. 25, 2014), the court determined that an ammonia release that rendered the insured manufacturing plant unusable until the gas had been dissipated “physically transformed the air” within the facility and thereby inflicted direct physical loss or damage to the plant. Gregory Packaging manufactured and sold juice cups, and it was in the process of installing a refrigeration system at a new plant in Newman, Georgia when anhydrous ammonia was

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Posted in Direct Physical Loss or Damage, Explosion, Seepage or Leakage

Oklahoma Supreme Court Reconciles Sewer Backup Exclusion With Accidental Discharge Coverage Grant

In May, we reported that a New York court had found that a policy containing both an exclusion for water that backs up through sewers and drains and a coverage grant for accidental discharge or overflow from a plumbing system was neither internally inconsistent nor ambiguous in nature.  The post can be found here.  On June 17th, Oklahoma’s highest court agreed, albeit without citing the New York case, and it held that the two provisions were fully reconcilable and enforceable.  The case in question is Porter v. Oklahoma Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 330 P.3rd 511, 2014 Okla. LEXIS 72 (Okla., June 17, 2014). Justin and Brandy Porter owned a home that was damaged when raw sewage entered the premises

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Posted in Ambiguity, Flood, Seepage or Leakage, Water

Insurers Say “Over My Dead Body” to Claims for Damage From Decomposition

Last April saw decisions handed down in Pennsylvania and Florida that addressed the ghoulish question of whether first-party policies cover property damage from a decomposing body, and the courts in both jurisdictions held that the answer in no.  A word of warning – the balance of this post is not for the squeamish. The first decision was Certain Underwriters at Lloyds of London v. Creagh, — Fed.Appx. —, 2014 WL 1408868 (3rd Cir. , April 14, 2014).  The insured owned a building in Philadelphia where a tenant died in the bathroom of a second floor apartment.  The body went undiscovered for two weeks, by which time bodily fluids had seeped through the floor, contaminating both the apartment itself and parts

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Posted in Decomposition, Explosion, Microorganisms, Seepage or Leakage

New York Holds Water Which Backs Up Is Covered If It Originated On The Insured Premises

Last week, in Pichel v. Dryden Mutual Ins. Co., — N.Y.S. 2d —, 2014 WL 1923736 (May 15, 2014), an intermediate level appellate panel in New York brought the state into line with the interpretation of water backup adopted by a number of other jurisdictions.  The decision held that policy references to a “plumbing system” mean the plumbing system on the insured premises itself.  As a result, a loss caused by water which backs up through sewers and drains is covered if the overflow originated within the insured’s property but excluded if the backup originated off site, as from a clogged municipal sewer system for example. The policyholder owned an apartment complex that was insured by Dryden Mutual.  The structure

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Posted in Flood, Seepage or Leakage, Water
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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