In March of 2017, I wrote a blog post about the crumbling foundations in Connecticut due to a concrete company, J.J. Mottes & Company, using concrete that contained pyrrhotite, that cause the concrete to lose integrity and collapse. Many insurance companies have been denying these claims for various reasons. One insured, Lawrence and Karen Cockill, sought to have their claim against Nationwide covered by arguing that the structural integrity of the concrete was diminished due to a “chemical reaction.”1

Nationwide denied coverage citing to the policy provision that stated:

We do not cover loss to property described in Coverages A and B resulting directly from any of the following. . . .

(f)(1) wear and tear, marring, deterioration

(2) inherent vice, latent defect, mechanical breakdown;

(3) smog, rust. . . .

(5) release, discharge, or dispersal of contaminants or pollutants;

(6) settling, cracking, shrinking, bulging or expansion of pavements, patios, foundations, walls, floors, roofs or ceilings.

In ultimately ruling for Nationwide and granting their motion to dismiss, the District Court reasoned that “although loss from ‘chemical reaction’ was not specifically listed among the exclusions in the policy…many of the exclusions were broad enough to include chemical reactions.” For example, “wear and tear,” “deterioration,” “inherent vice,” “latent defect,” “rust,” and “cracking” all were terms “that may encompass the ‘chemical reaction’ ” described.

The trial court also noted that the only manifestation of the loss that the insured observed was “cracking in the basement walls,” but that loss from cracking was excluded under the policy’s “collapse” provision.

I leave you with a quote from Hall of Famer Connie Mack, who said: “Humanity is the keystone that holds nations and men together. When that collapses, the whole structure crumbles. This is true of baseball teams as any other pursuit in life.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that humanity can help the Cockill’s pay for their crumbling foundation.
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1 Cockill v. Nationwide Property and Casualty Ins. Co., No. 3:18-cv-254 (D. Conn. Nov. 27, 2018).

  • bitdough

    I would have listed latent defect as broad enough to encompass chemical reaction. Can the insured seek recourse from J.J. Motes and Co?