Our client owns a large food market. Last summer, it burned down. The client submitted a claim under his business insurance policy from Farmers. The insurance policy included several different types of coverage, such as Business Property, Business Income, Extra Expense, and more. The insured had insufficient insurance limits under his Business Property to replace everything needed to reopen the market. Thus, he sought coverage for those items under Extra Expense coverage. By the plain and clear terms of the policy, these items were also covered under Extra Expense. But Farmers found an excuse to wrongfully deny the claim in a textbook example of how not to interpret and apply insurance policies in California.
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In a recent court opinion,1 the New Jersey Appellate Division interpreted a homeowner’s insurance policy’s water damage exclusion and determined whether damage from a broken municipal water main under a public street was covered under the policy. In that case, a homeowner brought an action against his insurer for breach of contract after the insurer disclaimed coverage on the basis that damage to his real and personal property resulting from a broken water main was excluded under the policy as flood, surface and ground water intrusion.
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Feenix Parkside LLC owed a commercial building that incurred a partial collapse to their ceiling. When Feenix sought coverage for the collapse, the insurer—Berkley North Pacific—denied coverage for the loss. When Feenix reported the loss, they stated the collapse was due to decay, which was a gradual decline in strength and soundness.
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Easthampton Congregational Church submitted an insurance claim to Church Mutual Insurance Company when their roof suddenly collapsed. Church Mutual denied coverage for faulty construction after they sent their engineer, Joseph Malo, out to inspect the property. Mr. Malo noted, and the insured agreed, there was “progressive failure of the fasteners used to attach the layers of the ceiling to the ceiling joists due to the weight of the ceiling” which eventually caused the collapse.
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Most property insurance policies provide additional coverage for direct physical loss of or damage to covered property caused by or resulting from an “abrupt collapse.”1 In Hoban v. Nova Casualty Company,2 a California federal district court recently addressed the meaning of the phrase “abrupt collapse,” which the commercial insurance policy at issue defined as “an abrupt falling down or caving in of a building or any part of a building with the result that the building or part of the building cannot be occupied for its intended purpose.”3
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