State Supreme Court Cases Highlight Importance of Wording in Earth Movement Exclusions

June 21, 2017
Hannah E. Austin - Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C.

In Erie Insurance Property and Casualty Company v. Chaber, the West Virginia Supreme Court recently
held that an insurance policy’s earth movement exclusion was unambiguous and applied to both manmade
and natural earth movement. The Court also found that a narrow “ensuing loss” exception to the exclusion
that provided coverage for glass breakage resulting from earth movement could not be extended to cover the
entire loss.

The Erie Insurance Property and Casualty Company (Erie) insured five commercial buildings owned by
Dmitri and Mary Chaber. One of the properties was damaged by a landslide, and the Chabers filed a claim
with Erie. Erie asserted that the loss was excluded from coverage because the policy excluded coverage for
losses caused by earth movement, which was defined to include earthquakes, landslides, subsidence of
manmade mines, and earth sinking (aside from sinkhole collapse), rising or shifting. The exclusion stated
that it applied “regardless of whether any of the above . . . is caused by an act of nature or is otherwise
caused,” and also contained an anti-concurrent causation clause. However, there was an exception for glass
breakage caused by earth movement.

Ms. Austin may be contacted at


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