I was asked twice on Friday at our seminar in Houston whether a policyholder could collect for the loss of their roof warranty. I felt the questions were valid because Hurricane Ike has caused many to lose warranties on their roofs as a result of wind speeds being in excess of allowable warranty requirements. In essence, policyholders suffer financial damage because they no longer have warranties on roofs due to the physical wind speed event of an act of God, Hurricane Ike.

The problem is that the property insurance policy covers loss caused by physical damage. To receive benefits, you normally have to have “physical damage” to something caused by a peril that is covered under the policy. Virtually all modern forms say something to the effect that the coverage is for “direct physical loss or damage to covered property…..caused by or resulting from a Covered Cause of loss.” If you can show that there has been physical loss or damage caused by an insured peril, the warranty value is a consideration for the amount of the loss. Without actual damage, however, you cannot make a claim for the contractual loss because property insurance policies require physical damage.

The FC&S Bulletin has two question and answers about this issue regarding warranties which are very instructive. The first is on point with the questions posed to me:

Warranty Cancelled—Direct Physical Loss?

Our client has a CP 00 10 04 02 covering their leased telephone system. The system, consisting of several components located throughout the building, was only thirty days old when it suffered water damage from a frozen overhead water pipe.

The lessor insists that any component exposed to water be replaced, whether it suffered obvious damage or not. The lessor will not honor the warranty/service agreement for any components exposed to water but not replaced. Likewise, the lessor will not honor the agreement for components which are repaired, rather than replaced.

The insurer says that they are only obligated to pay for components which suffered obvious damage. They will not replace equipment simply because it was exposed to water. Similarly, they refuse to replace components where repairs cost less than replacement. According to the insurance company, the loss of the warranty/service agreement is not "direct physical loss or damage" and is not covered under the policy.

We don’t believe the insured is made whole if they lose the warranty/service agreement on their equipment. Whether the insurance company pays to replace the equipment, or pays the value of the warranty (which would be difficult to determine), it seems clear to us that they must recognize the value of the warranty in the claim settlement.

Answer

In your insured’s case, there is some question whether the telephone components are damaged. The policy covers "direct damage" to property. If that direct damage can be proved, and if the warranty is lost because the manufacturer will not honor the warranty on repaired equipment, then the value of the warranty can be said to be part of the loss. If there is no direct damage to the components exposed to water but not obviously damaged, then there is no coverage. The argument here seems to be with the lessor, and whether it is acting within its rights in voiding a warranty on exposed, but undamaged property.

The insured is caught between two contracts and interests. His "deal" with the insurance company does not mesh with his deal with the telephone equipment manufacturer. We do not know of any insurer will[ing] to replace property only when it might have been damaged and then forego the insurer’s option of making repairs rather than replacing.

The editors of the FC&S Bulletin are right. I will research the issue of direct physical loss for examples and post those at another time.

The second question and answer also demonstrates how warranties can be used to increase claim value when physical loss occurs:

Businessowners — Value of a Warranty Included in Replacement Cost?

My client is insured under a businessowners policy, form BP 00 02 12 99. Her laptop computer was damaged, and the loss was covered by the BOP policy. I think the value of the warranty on the damaged laptop should be included in the settlement, but the insurance company adjuster disagrees.

Should the value of the warranty be included or not?

Answer

The value of a warranty should be included in the replacement cost valuation of a damaged object. Insurance policies are contracts of indemnification. As such, the policyholder should be placed in the same condition after the loss as before the loss. The adjuster may want to pro-rate the value of the warranty, but it should be considered.

As I indicated on Friday, everybody doing this for a living should subscribe to the FC&S Bulletins. It is an excellent general first source for questions about coverage and forms to which I routinely refer for my coverage considerations. In my opinion, the on-line edition is much easier to research than the paper edition, which would take hours looking for the proverbial “needle in the haystack.” Still, I learned a lot of coverage issues and answers I would otherwise miss today by reading for irrelevant coverage discussions when researching through the old paper edition.

If you feel you cannot afford a subscription to FC&S Bulletin, you should at least subscribe to their free e-Alert, a monthly online e-newsletter.

  • shirley heflin

    Music to any insured’s ears:

    “…As such, the policyholder should be placed in the same condition after the loss as before the loss…”

    If only it happened more often.

    SHIRLEY HEFLIN

  • David Lofton

    I have a claim that involves the expnasion of waste water treatment facility. Insured purchased fine bubble diffusers from the manufactuer and installed by sub-contractor. During testing of diffuser system – sevearal diffusers broke off and floated to the top of basin area. We agreed to cover 8 broken diffusers under the Equipment Breakdown Coverage form EB 00 20 08 08 as physical damage.

    The manufactuer of the diffusers stated that in thier view all of the diffusers (1100 total) were damaged during testing. Manufactuer states that they could not prove if other difussers were damaged – but would not honor the warranty unless all 1100 diffusers were replaced.

    We established a testing protocol with two engineers to conduct random sampling of diffusers to see if additional damage was noted beyond the 8 physically damaged diffusers. Our test concluded that no further damage was noted to remaining diffusers at insured location. Insureds is asking for the value of the warranty as payment. What is the value of the warranty? The warranty was included with the purchase of the diffusers. Insured did not spend any additional funds to purchase warranty.