The court found that the sinking of the insured person’s soil caused by termites and putrefaction did not meet the definition of the breakdown by homeowners’ policies. Stewart against Metro. Lloyds Ins. Co., 2020 US Dist. LEXIS 111527 (SD Tex. June 24, 2020).
Beatrice Stewart, the house owner, heard a loud bang one night when she was lying in bed. The next day, she found that the floor near her bathroom and hall had sunk and the house was lower. She admitted that the house never fell completely. During the investigation, Lloyds found that rotting in the floor beams and sub-floor was caused by a combination of termite damage and exposure to moisture. Lloyds contested the claim.
Stewart sued. Lloyds argued that politics required a “complete collapse” of the building or part of a building, which did not occur here. The directive defined “collapse” as “sudden falling or collapse of a building or part of a building”. The record did not show that any part of Stewart’s floor collapsed.
The undisputed evidence also did not show a “complete” breakdown. At a hearing, Steward argued that the word “total” applies only to the collapse of a building, not to the collapse of a portion of a building. The court found this to be an inappropriate interpretation. The word “entire” modified “collapse” which referred to the expression “a building or part of a building”. The police covered damage caused by the collapse of “part of a building” only after a complete collapse.
The evidence showed that part of the floor sank and some floor beams under the house broke or cracked; Some walls were not vertical and cracked. and some doors were off the hinges. This damage resembled sinking and cracking, which was not a complete breakdown. Therefore Lloyds’ request for summary assessment was approved.
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