Tred R. Eyerly | Insurance Law Hawaii
Damage to a building caused by the break of a water pipe was not a collapse under the policy. Naabani Twin Stars v. Travelers Cos., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 196443 (D. N. M. Oct. 22, 2020).
An underground water line ruptured on plaintiffs property This caused a collapse under the adjacent parking lot, which in turn caused land beneath the building go change positions and damage the building. A geotechnical consultant concluded that a material change in the site conditions occurred as a direct result of the rupture of the water pipe in the parking lot, and that those changes directly affected the settlement of the building.
Travelers denied coverage for the damage. Travelers concluded that the building settlement was the result of subsurface movement, which invoked the earth movement exclusion. Travelers inspection concluded that the building was not in a state of collapse. The policy defined collapse as “an abrupt falling down or caving in of a building or structure, or any part of a building or structure, with the result that the building, or part of the building, cannot be occupied for its intended purpose.”
Plaintiff sued and Travelers moved for summary judgment.
The court found that the definition of “collapse” was clear and unambiguous. The court could not find any evidence to show that plaintiffs’ building suffered a “collapse” as defined by the policy. The damage to the building fell squarely within the definition’s exclusion, which did not cover standing buildings with “cracking, bulging, sagging, bending, leaning, settling, shrinkage, or expansion.” Plaintiff did not identify any evidence of the building “falling down or caving in.” Instead, plaintiff contended the building was in danger of falling down or caving in.
Plaintiff also argued that the efficient proximate cause of the damage was the ruptured water pipe. But the policy’s anti-concurrent causation clause displaced any benefit Plaintiffs might receive from the efficient proximate cause doctrine. To find otherwise would be to rewrite the policy.
Finally, the earth movement exclusion was applicable. The provision barred coverage for “loss caused directly or indirectly by any earth movement, whether natural or man-made, including . . . earth sinking, rising or shifting, including soil conditions which cause settling. . .” Here the evidence was clear that the damage was caused by shifting soil, itself caused by the underground water movement.
Travelers’ motion for summary judgment was granted.