Vandalism is an interesting peril. It can also be an overlooked coverage and I wanted to provide just a few examples.
In Lanza Enterprises, Inc. v. Continental Insurance Company,1 a faucet was turned on at a construction site during the weekend when no one was working. The faucet was connected to a hose which led inside the building under construction. The water ran for some time and did considerable damage. There was no evidence to show who had turned the faucet on, or why.
The court held the damage was covered under a policy insuring against vandalism and malicious mischief:
The uncontradicted evidence, accepted as correct by the trial court, excluded any negligence of the job-employees as the cause of the damages. On the other hand, the person or persons who were sufficiently skilled to get over or under the high fence and into the construction premises, must have intended damage to the building by turning on the water full force into the hose leading into it, so as to permit the water’s unrestricted flow while the premises were deserted over the weekend. It took a deliberate act to turn on the faucet, and under such circumstances the deliberately turning and leaving the water on full force (which would obviously cause damage), evidenced the deliberate intention to damage the building.
It is true that directing water against the outside of a building is not as certain to cause serious damage as directly flooding the inside. Nevertheless, it is obvious that some damage to the grounds or the building would probably result if they were subjected to the full spray from the hose placed near the building at the bottom of the sloping area and left running for a protracted time. The likelihood of some damage was great enough to bring the case within the policy coverage.
Damage from a meth lab might give rise to vandalism damage:
[T]he tenant’s indoor methamphetamine lab created harmful vapors and residues that damaged Graff’s rental house. The tenant’s acts were intentional, in disregard of Graff’s property interest, and the resulting damage was almost a certainty. This meets the definition of vandalism.2
Damage from a moonshine operation could be considered vandalism:
In the present case the tenant had been given permission to erect an addition to the house. He built a lean-to across the back in which the moonshine still was housed, then vented the contraption so that the smoke, fumes and vapor were pulled by a fan to the interior of the house. As a result of smoke and condensation the paint in the rooms peeled, plaster was loosened, rugs, drapes, and walls were stained, soiled, and covered with mold. The outside wall was charred by fire. The swimming pool adjacent to the house was used as a dump for old mash, and was stained and broken. A finding is accordingly demanded that the damage was done intentionally and wantonly by persons using the house, and therefore a finding that the acts amounted to vandalism is demanded by the evidence.3
A marijuana growing operation could result in vandalism damage:
In this case, the tenants diverted all of the heat from the furnace to the basement in order to create a marijuana grow room. They irrigated the marijuana plants under grow lights. This created a sauna-like environment in the basement. Additionally, they sealed the house and thereby trapped the water vapor generated by their activities in the basement. These activities caused certain damage to Ms. Bowers’ house. The tenants acted in conscious or intentional disregard for her property rights. Malice may be inferred from their acts. We conclude that the tenants’ acts are vandalism.4
And even excavation of ground causing a collapse could possibly be found to be vandalism:
It is true that, in some cases of alleged vandalism not directed at particular property, the term does not intuitively seem to fit. Thus, while the acts of the “perpetrators” in Cresthill seem like prototypical acts of vandalism, those in Louisville and the present case do not. The word vandalism, which derives from the sack of Rome by the original Vandals in 455 AD (see IV Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire at 246–248 [Folio Society 1986] ), more readily brings to mind people who smash and loot than business owners who seek their own profit in disregard of the injury they do to the property of others. We conclude, however, that there is no principled distinction between the two. An excavator who is paid to dig a hole, and does so in conscious disregard of likely damage to the building 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.5
Vandalism is a coverage that sometimes gets overlooked. But, not by readers of this blog.
Positive Thought of the Day
If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.
1 Lanza Enterprises, Inc. v. Continental Ins. Co., 142 So.2d 580 (La. App. 1962).
2 Graff v. Allstate Ins. Co., 113 Wash.App. 799, 806, 54 P.3d 1266, 1269 (Wash. App. Div. 2 2002).
3 Livaditis v. American Cas. Co. of Reading, Pa., 117 Ga. App. 297, 299-300, 160 S.E.2d 449, 451 (Ga. App. 1968).
4 Bowers v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, 99 Wash. App. 41, 46-47, 991 P.2d 734, 737 (Wash. App. Div. 3 2000).
5 Georgitsi Realty, LLC v. Penn-Star Ins. Co., 21 N.Y.3d 606, 611, 999 N.E.2d 520, 523, 977 N.Y.S.2d 157, 160 (N.Y. 2013).