Certainly the majority of an attorney’s work in any given field has a certain amount of repetition, whether returning clients or similar claims. However, occasionally a case comes along unlike any you’ve ever seen before: Last week, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled that damage caused to a home due to an exploding corpse was not a covered peril.1

In November 2009, Judy Rodrigo filed a lawsuit against her condomimuim association after her upstairs neighbor passed away. The lawsuit alleges that in October of 2007, Rodrigo’s neighbor died and her body later, “exploded causing blood and bodily fluids to go into the Plaintiff’s adjoining condominium.” Apparently, the deceased woman’s body went undiscovered for two weeks where it underwent normal decomposition and ultimately led to the body building up enough pressure that it exploded.

Saving you any further explicit gory details, Rodrigo’s condominium sustained damages as a result of leaking bodily fluids which ultimately resulted in her gutting her apartment. After several years of legal battles, Ms. Rodrigo eventually filed suit against her insurer, State Farm Insurance Company, after they denied full coverage claiming that damage was caused by a peril not covered by her policy.2

The Ms. Rodrigo argued that explosions were in fact a covered peril under her policy and the damage resulting from the exploding body should be covered. State Farm filed a motion for summary judgment which the trial court granted. Ms. Rodrigo appealed and on April 23, 2014, the appellate court looked to the plain meaning of the term, “explosion” and affirmed the dismissal of Ms. Rodigo’s claims.

The Court found,

The plain meaning of the term ‘explosion’ does not include a decomposing body’s cells explosively expanding, causing leakage of bodily fluids. In short, although novel in her attempt to do so, the insured could not establish that the decomposing body was tantamount to an explosion.

It certainly wasn’t another normal day at the office for the attorney when this case came in.

As always, here’s a (mildly) related tune, Alkaline Trio covering The Cure’s, The Exploding Boy:

//www.youtube.com/embed/eoAMVJ89RXw?rel=0

But if you prefer the original version:

//www.youtube.com/embed/kE36xUS1QZo?rel=0


1 Rodrigo v. State Farm Florida Ins. Co., No. 4D12-33410 (Fla. 4th DCA April 23, 2014).
2 http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/pulp/2014/04/florida_woman_must_pay_for_dam.php (Last accessed 5/18/2014).

  • It sounds like the plaintiff may have had a property policy with limited coverage. The question is, if a homeowner had an “all risk” or “open perils” policy, would it have been covered? Then it wouldn’t have been a question of whether or not the damage was caused by an explosion; rather, the most likely position of the carrier would that the bodily fluids were a “pollutant” and thus EXCLUDED under the policy. That would have triggered the debate over whether the plain meaning of the term “pollutants” includes a decomposing body’s cells explosively expanding, causing leakage of bodily fluids. Definitely, an argument for another time and another case!

  • Thank-you for sharing this. After reading the linked documents, it seems that Mrs. Rodrigo’s Homeowners/Condo Unit Owners was a ‘named perils’ policy, probably a Broad form. I suspect that if she had spent the few dollars a month extra to endorse the ‘Special Cause of Loss’ coverage, this ‘explosion’ would have been covered. No? In the good old days, Special forms used to be referred to as ‘All Risk’ and Broad or Basic forms as ‘Named Perils’. What the un-informed policyholder may not know is that the Special Forms name the perils that are excluded, and if not on that list, then it is covered. Broad forms work the exact opposite way, whereby only the items listed as covered perils are indeed afforded coverage. I frequently get into impassioned pleas with my prospects, doing my level best to encourage them to add the Special Cause of loss endorsement to their HO-6 Condo Unit Owners Policies.

  • M. Kaye

    Am I not correct in assuming that if the policy was not written as a basic or named perils basis, then for anything NOT to be covered it would have to be specifically excluded?

    Rather than hanging the claim on ‘explosion’, why not say it was an accidental discharge, or better yet an overflow or leak from a plumbing vessel (the heart/veins)?

    Any thoughts?

  • John K McDougall

    What exclusion was State Farm relying upon. If the Condo policy was all risk, State Farm had to prove an exclusion. The Loss was fortuitous how was it excluded?

  • I believe if you review the court documents on this case, you will find that the court dealt with two issues. One was did the insured file the proof of loss in a timely manner? The other is whether the policy provides personal property coverage for an exploding body.

    The court determined that the insured did not establish that the decomposing body was tantamount to an explosion. No coverage for the personal property loss.

    The court also found that “because the insured failed to submit a sworn proof of loss, the insurer did not owe the insured payment under the policy terms unless the insured rebutted the presumption that failure to submit sworn proof of loss prejudiced the insurer.” Documents state SF have previously issued payment for Coverage A but denied coverage for personal property damages but the insured did not accept the payment.

  • Really? I hope I don;t ever build a house on some ancient burial ground. ‘Honey, do we have zombie insurance?’ ‘Yes baby, go back to sleep.’ Nice.