What do you do when your house falls out from underneath you? Over the last few years, homeowners in northeastern Connecticut have been suing their insurers for denying coverage for claims based on deteriorating foundations in their homes. The lawsuits, which have come to be known as the “crumbling concrete cases,” stem from the use of faulty concrete to pour foundations of approximately 35,000 homes built during the 1980s and 1990s. In order to save their homes, thousands of homeowners have been left with no other choice but to lift their homes off the crumbling foundations, tear out the defective concrete and replace it. The process typically costs between $150,000 to $350,000 per home, and homeowner’s insurers are refusing to cover the costs. As a result, dozens of lawsuits have been filed by Connecticut homeowners in both state and federal court.
Of those cases, three related lawsuits against Allstate Insurance Company were the first to make it to the federal appellate level.1 The Second Circuit Court of Appeals was tasked with deciding one common issue: whether the “collapse” provision in the Allstate homeowner’s policy affords coverage for gradually deteriorating basement walls that remain standing.
The Allstate policies at issue were “all-risk” policies, meaning they covered “sudden and accidental direct physical losses” to residential properties. While “collapse” losses were generally excluded, the policies did provide coverage for a limited class of “sudden and accidental” collapses, including those caused by “hidden decay,” and/or “defective methods or materials used in construction, repair or renovations.” Covered collapses did not include instances of “settling, cracking, shrinking, bulging or expansion.”