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Squatter’s Warming Fire in Vacant Home Held Not to be Vandalism by Divided California Court

In February, we published a Post about a Florida decision that aligned that state with the clear majority of American courts that have held that the destruction of property by an intentionally set fire is encompassed within the terms “vandalism and malicious mischief.”  Last Friday, in Hung Van Ong v. Fire Ins. Exch., 2015 WL 1524464, 2015 Cal. App. LEXIS 290 (Cal.Ct.App., Apr. 3, 2015), two of the three justices on a California intermediate level appellate court panel rejected that approach, reversing a grant of summary judgment in favor of the insurer in a case in which a vacant dwelling had been damaged when a transient set a fire on the kitchen floor to warm himself because they concluded that

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Posted in Arson, Exclusions, Fire, Vacant or Unoccupied, Vandalism

Florida Court Holds Arson is a Type of Excluded Vandalism and Malicious Mischief

Earlier this month a unanimous Florida appellate court joined a number of other states that have held that an all-risk policy exclusion for vandalism and malicious mischief operates to bar coverage for an arson loss.  The opinion can be found at Botee v. Southern Fid. Ins. Co., 2015 WL 477836, 2015 Fla. App. LEXIS 1566 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App., Feb. 6, 2015). The insured, Raziya Botee, owned a single-family home that was destroyed by an arsonist on October 10, 2012.  It was undisputed that the structure had been vacant for over a month when the fire broke out.  Her homeowner’s insurer, Southern Fidelity (SFIC), denied liability because the contract of insurance excluded coverage for losses caused by “vandalism and malicious mischief, theft or

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Posted in All Risk, Ambiguity, Arson, Exclusions, Fire, Vacancy and Unoccupancy, Vandalism

Inventory Computation Exclusion Bars Employee Theft Claim in Alabama

Employee theft claims are frequently problematic when the only evidence of shortage is a comparison between computer records and a physical inventory conducted after the malefactor has been discharged.  In W.L. Petrey Wholesale Co. v. Great American Ins. Co., 2015 WL 404523, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10943 (N.D.Ala., Jan. 30, 2015), an Alabama federal court recently granted summary judgment to the carrier where the contract of insurance barred employee dishonesty claims based solely on “inventory computation” and such a comparison was the policyholder’s only evidence of the loss. Petrey was a wholesale distributor of goods supplied to convenience stores, one of which was a two ounce “energy shot” drink called “5-Hour Energy.”  It hired salespeople for delivery routes, and each

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Posted in Conditions, Exclusions, Theft or Dishonesty

Wisconsin Adds “Septage” To The List Of Substances Deemed To Be Pollutants

In Preisler v. Kuettel’s Septic Service, LLC, et al., 2014 WL 114325 (Wisc.App., Jan. 14, 2014), the intermediate level of appellate court in Wisconsin recently held that “septage” – a combination of water, urine, feces, and chemicals that is used as a fertilizer – was “unambiguously a pollutant.”  The case involved the scope of comprehensive general liability (“CGL”) coverage, but the CGL policy exclusions at issue were virtually identical to pollution exclusions commonly found in first-party contracts of insurance.  The decision is important to property carriers as a result, and it also rejects a number of arguments that first-party insureds frequently make in an effort to limit or avoid the application of such language. The Preislers owned a dairy farm

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Posted in Efficient Proximate Cause, Exclusions, Pollution, Reasonable Expectations
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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