Florida Appeals Court Reverses Appraisal Ordered In Storm Suit

On July 20, 2022, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal reversed and remanded a trial court’s decision compelling the parties to proceed with appraisal and staying litigation until that appraisal was completed. Florida’s appellate court held that trial court erred in granting the motion to compel appraisal without first conducting an evidentiary hearing to determine compliance with post loss obligations.

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Intentional Loss Exclusion Could Apply Even to Unintended Damage, Says the Tenth Circuit

The Tenth Circuit recently held that, under Kansas law, an intentional loss exclusion precludes coverage for damage caused by an intentionally set fire even if the actual resulting damage is unintended. In Taylor et al. v. LM Insurance Corp., Case No. 20-3166 (10th Cir. Jul. 11, 2022), the named insureds’ 18-year-old daughter (who was also an “insured” under the policy) was home alone and used a lighter to ignite her father’s side of her parents’ bedspread, intending to “make him mad.” Though she intended to, and believed she had, put out the fire, the fire spread and caused damage to the insureds’ home.

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Missouri Takes A Stand On Depreciation

On June 28, the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision finding Lexington Insurance Company (“Lexington”) breached its policy with homeowner Cynthia Franklin. Franklin’s home has sustained damage in a May 2016 storm for which she submitted a claim with Lexington. Lexington utilizes a two-step adjusting process in which it first determines the ACV of a covered loss and issues an ACV payment. Then, if an insured requests additional reimbursement for repair and replacement costs over the amount previously paid, Lexington assesses the appropriateness of payment. In processing Franklin’s claim, Lexington withheld over $5,000 in actual cash value, citing to “depreciated labor costs.” Lexington, in a letter dated July 7, 2016, explained that Franklin could recover “applicable depreciation for dwelling/building items” if she submitted paid repair invoices. After completing additional repairs, Franklin failed to forward any invoices or receipts. The claim was then closed by Lexington in October of 2017.

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New Jersey Appellate Division Rules Insurers Not Obligated to Cover Certain Business COVID-19 Related Losses

A recent New Jersey Appellate Division ruling follows the general trend nationally in which courts are, by and large, rejecting insureds’ claims for coverage for business income losses due to government orders related to preventing the spread of Covid-19.  While there have been certain outliers, like the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal’s deeply divided plurality decision earlier this month in Cajun Conti LLC, et al. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, et al., the overwhelming majority of courts have ruled in favor of insurers.  Specifically, courts have consistently recognized that physical alteration or damage to covered property is a prerequisite for triggering business interruption coverage under a first-party insurance policy.    Further, courts have almost uniformly enforced virus exclusions.  In this recent decision, the New Jersey Appellate Division followed suit, thereby reinforcing the national trend. 

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Florida Property Insurance Reform Round Three Brings Big Changes

For the third time since 2019, the Florida Legislature has enacted broad property insurance reforms with the goal of stabilizing the insurance market and curbing litigation filed by unscrupulous contractors. The bill, S.B. 2D, creates a reinsurance program, amends certain prohibited advertisement practices for contractors, permits issuance of personal lines policies with separate roof deductibles, and reigns in property insurance bad faith litigation and litigation by assignees. In this article, we will focus on the statutory changes that affect the handling and litigation of property insurance claims.

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New York Court Holds Coverage for Excavation Damage Precluded by Earth Movement Exclusion

According to a recent ruling by a New York appellate court, coverage for excavation damage is precluded by the policy’s earth movement exclusion. In 3502 Partners LLC v. Great American Insurance Co. of New York, Case No. 2021-03449 (N.Y. App. 1st Dep’t Apr. 21, 2022), an insured sued its insurer under a first-party policy, alleging in its complaint that its property sustained damage as a direct result of excavation work at an adjacent lot.

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Accepting Coverage for Part of a Claim May Subject an Insurer to the Appraisal Process Under Tennessee Law

Accepting coverage for part of a claim may subject an insurer to a policy’s appraisal process when the extent of covered damage is in dispute, according to a recent ruling issued by the Eastern District of Tennessee. In Morrow v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., Case No. 1:21-CV-00133-DCLC-CHS, 2022 WL 885863 (E.D. Tenn. Mar. 22, 2022), a severe storm with strong winds and tornadic activity damaged the insured’s home in Manchester, Tennessee. After the storm, the insured promptly reported the damage to her home to her insurer. The insured’s policy covered direct physical loss to her home, other structures on her property, and her personal property. The insurer acknowledged that the damage to the insured’s home was covered under the policy and made a payment, following its own estimate of the damage, for her loss. The insured, however, alleged that the insurer failed to determine the actual cost of the damage to her home. She informed the insurer that its payment was insufficient to cover all of the damage and restore her home to its condition before the storm.

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NY Appellate Court: Covid-19 Business Losses Don’t Constitute “Physical” Damage to Property, Don’t Trigger Commercial Property Policies

Covid-19 may cause businesses to be unable to use their property, but loss of use doesn’t constitute the “direct physical loss or damage” necessary to trigger commercial property insurance coverage, according to a first-of-its kind New York appellate court decision issued Thursday.

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Ninth Circuit Finds that “Subsidence Exclusion” Bars Coverage for Landslide Loss

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued an unpublished opinion in Atain Specialty Insurance Company v. JKT Associates, Inc., Case No. 20-16366 (9th Cir., March 11, 2022), finding that a liability policy’s “Subsidence Exclusion” barred coverage for a lawsuit arising out of a landslide. 

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Renewal of Property Policy Requires Living Insured

A policy renewal requires a living insured to form a valid insurance contract, the Sixth Circuit recently ruled. In Boby Davis, et al. v. Westfield Ins. Co., Case No. 21-2797 (6th Cir. Mar. 14, 2022), Della Shields received a yearly homeowner’s insurance policy covering her home in Muskegon, Michigan from 2013 until her death in March 2018. Shields was the sole named insured in the yearly policy declarations.

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About The Property Insurance Law Observer
For more than four decades, Cozen O’Connor has represented all types of property insurers in jurisdictions throughout the United States, and it is dedicated to keeping its clients abreast of developments that impact the insurance industry. The Property Insurance Law Observer will survey court decisions, enacted or proposed legislation, and regulatory activities from all 50 states. We will also include commentary on current issues and developing trends of interest to first-party insurers.
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