"Decay" Found Ambiguous in Collapse Case

Businessman holding scale of justice

A large portion of the sanctuary ceiling of the insured's church collapsed.

August 31, 2020
Tred R. Eyerly - Insurance Law Hawaii

The federal district court granted, in part, the insured's motion for summary judgment seeking coverage for a collapse of a church's ceiling. Derbyshire Baptist Church v. Church Mut. Ins. Co., 2020 U.S. Distl LEXIS 113346 (E.D. Va. June 29, 2020).

A large portion of the sanctuary ceiling of the insured's church collapsed. A claim was filed with the insurer. The insurer hired a forensic engineer who found the collapse was caused by the disconnection of wire support hangers from the wood roof beams. Further, "the redistribution of load on the hangers resulted in a progressive failure of the hangers and their supported components." Based on these findings, the insurer denied coverage.

The policy excluded coverage for collapse, but in the Additional Coverage portion of the policy, collapse caused by "decay that is hidden from view" was covered. The court pondered the meaning of "decay," which was not defined in the policy.

Mr. Eyerly may be contacted at te@hawaiilawyer.com



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