New York’s highest appellate court holds an expansive view of property insurance coverage for vandalism losses. Back in January, 2013, I wrote a post: So There Is An Excavation Company As Your Next Door Neighbor; Could It Trigger Vandalism Coverage To Your Property, about a question the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit certified to the New York State Court of Appeals related to vandalism coverage in a property insurance policy. Recently, the New York Court of Appeals answered that question and held vandalism may result from acts not directed specifically at the covered property.1

The New York Court of Appeals stated they had never before addressed the meaning of vandalism in an insurance policy. The Court reviewed cases from New York and from other jurisdictions to reach the conclusion that

“vandalism”, as the term is ordinarily understood, need not imply a specific intent to accomplish any particular result; vandals may act simply out of a love of excitement, or an unfocused desire to do harm, or out of a desire to enrich oneself without caring about the consequences to others.

Within this line of thinking, the Court answered the question about the definition of vandalism and held that vandalism may result from acts not directed specifically at the covered property. The Court stated:

An excavator who is paid to dig a hole, and does so in conscious disregard of likely damage next door, is for these purposes, not essentially different from an irresponsible youth who might dig a hole on the same property, with the same effect, whether in search of buried treasure or just for fun.

The second question certified was what state of mind amounts to “malicious” damage to property for insurance purposes? The Court answered that conduct is “malicious” for property insurance purposes when it reflects “such a conscious disregard of the interests of others that it may be called willful or wanton.”

The Court held “where damage naturally and foreseeably results from an act of vandalism, a vandalism clause in an insurance policy should cover it.” The majority opinion in this New York case does not require the policyholder to prove that an alleged vandal intended to cause property damage to obtain insurance coverage for the vandalism damage. This is an expansive view of vandalism coverage and is a major victory for policyholders.


1 Georgitsi Realty, LLC v. Penn-Star Ins. Co., 2013 NY Slip Op 06731, 2013 WL 5637757 (N.Y. Oct. 17, 2013).

 

  • Certainly interesting, although I have to wonder if this isn’t stretching the meaning of ‘vandalism’ to an astonishing degree. It’ll be interesting to see what the responses might be from insurers to preparation of policies.