Memorial Day is a special time to remember those men and women who have given their lives during service in our country’s military. A History Channel has this note about the beginning of this special holiday:

In May 1868, General John A. Logan, the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ group known as the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a decree that May 30 should become a nationwide day of commemoration for the more than 620,000 soldiers killed in the recently ended Civil War. On Decoration Day, as Logan dubbed it, Americans should lay flowers and decorate the graves of the war dead ‘whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.’

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After the war Logan, who had served as a U.S. congressman before resigning to rejoin the army, returned to his political career, eventually serving in both the House and Senate and was the unsuccessful Republican candidate for vice president in 1884. When he died two years later, Logan’s body laid in state in the rotunda of the United States Capitol, making him one of just 33 people to have received the honor. Today, Washington, D.C.’s Logan Circle and several townships across the country are named in honor of this champion of veterans and those killed in battle.
Continue Reading Memorial Day and The War Clause in Property Insurance Polices

A number of media outlets, including a news broadcast, reported on Mercury Insurance Company denying its Atlanta customers’ claims caused by squirrel damage because the policy it sells excludes damage caused by “rodents.” Mercury Insurance reasoned that since “squirrels” are “rodents” and damage caused by “rodents” are excluded from coverage, the squirrel damage is not covered.
Continue Reading Squirrels Damage Your Home—Coverage or Not?

Homeowner insurance policies often contain exclusions disclaiming coverage for certain losses if an insured residence is unoccupied. These exclusions are designed to prevent extensive damage from accidents that might otherwise be avoided with early detection or simple preventative measures, as an unoccupied house presents a risk that damage will go unnoticed for some time.
Continue Reading Does the Presence of Furniture In My House Satisfy My Insurance Policy’s Occupancy Requirement?

Most homeowners are surprised to learn that almost all homeowners’ policies include exclusions for damage caused by sewage water originating outside their home. For example, if your city or county’s sewer main line backs up because of tree roots or debris and the sewage water backs up into your home, the resulting damage will not be covered, or if it is, may be subject to significant limits—often covering only $5,000 or $10,000 of damage. Given the scope of cleaning required in these events, this amount will likely not cover even the costs to clean up the sewage. What’s more, some policies even exclude backups on the homeowner’s own lateral lines. Insurers may offer policy endorsements for coverage at an additional cost, but as many homeowners shop based on price alone, they may not realize they lack the coverage until it is too late.
Continue Reading Although Many Policies Exclude Sewer Line Backups from Coverage, What Is A Government Entity’s Liability Under Inverse Condemnation?

In a recent case,1 a federal appeals court addressed the issue of whether fire damage to a vacant dwelling from an arsonist was considered distinct from vandalism, so as to not implicate an exclusion within a homeowners insurance policy. In that case, Wells Fargo Bank owned an insurance policy on an abandoned house that an arsonist set ablaze. The insured sued its insurer after the insurer refused to indemnify the insured for the loss, relying on a policy provision exclusion for damage caused by “vandalism or malicious mischief” after the property had been vacant for more than thirty consecutive days.
Continue Reading Arson of Vacant House: Covered Fire Loss or Excluded Vandalism?

A few days ago, a family member called to ask me if I was interested in adopting a stray kitten. Hmmm… I had to think about this offer. I have “owned” cats over the years. But cats are quirky. Perhaps that is why memes and videos of domestic cats make up some of the most viewed content on the internet.
Continue Reading Feral Felines Are Focus of Appellate Court’s Findings on Fracas Over Domestic Animal Exclusion

Chip Merlin & Guy Cohen

Public adjuster Guy Cohen and I discussed various issues of property insurance and adjustment at a recent lunch. He raised a very serious topic of coverage gaps being created in the small print of property insurance policies which Florida insurance regulators are allowing to be sold. He thinks that these coverage gaps are the most serious issues facing insurance consumers. He is not alone.
Continue Reading The New Water Damage Limitation and Other Non-Traditional Coverage Gaps

Chomp, Chomp!

Insurance Policies are designed to cover sudden and accidental loss and damage. Mary Wischusen, 77, believed that she had a suffered a sudden and accidental act of nature and that coverage would be afforded when a gator came crashing into her kitchen. This 11-foot alligator was not her domestic pet or a planned guest, but her insurance company has denied the claim.
Continue Reading Gator Coverage?

I often receive calls from policyholders asking how an insurance company can deny their claim based on an exclusion that isn’t defined in the policy. One of these terms is “surface water,” a common exclusion found in most policies. Recently, I had a client whose home’s gutter system malfunctioned during a rainstorm. Rather than channeling water to run from his roof, through the gutter system and out to the street, water was redirected at the side of the home. The water filled up a planter built in to the side of the house and eventually made its way into the home, damaging his flooring.
Continue Reading When Can My Property Insurance Claim Be Denied Due to War or Other Undefined Terms?