The coverages, limitations, exclusions and exceptions to exclusions buried in all those pages of property insurance policies can leave your head spinning when trying to make sense of it all. It can feel like trying to navigate through a complicated maze or fit all of the pieces of an intricate puzzle together without forcing them. This was demonstrated recently in a federal case from the Northern District of Florida, Bartram, LLC v. Landmark American Insurance Company, 2012 WL 1072207 (N.D. Fla. March 30, 2012).
If asked what an ordinary person might select for casual reading, one might think of books, magazines, or newspapers, but probably not insurance policies. If an ordinary person were to read an insurance policy, what would he or she think it meant? In states that employ the “reasonable expectations doctrine” for insurance policies, courts are often faced with this question. Colorado is one of the states that considers the reasonable expectation of the insured when interpreting insurance policies, and a recent condominium case there took a grammatical approach to determine what an ordinary reader would have understood the condominium policy to have covered.
With so many recent disastrous events taking place across the United States it is important for associations, businesses and all policyholders to understand that in a property insurance claim, the devil is in the details. Hearing generalizations from insurance professionals about what may be covered and what may be excluded is not nearly enough when putting together a damage claim. The detail work is in the particular facts, documentation of the event and damage, and sometimes most importantly, the language of the policy at issue.
Sometimes it is easy to determine who is covered under an insurance policy just by looking at the declarations page of the policy. Other times it is not so easy. A recent case from State of Washington illustrates just how complicated it can be to determine who is and is not covered under a policy of insurance. In the case of Elkins v. QBE Ins. Corp., No. 11-5150, 2011 WL 1562386 (W.D. Wash. Apr. 21, 2011), an insured office condominium suffered a fire loss and questions arose as to whether individual office unit owners were covered for business interruption losses under the property insurance policy.
With the Atlantic Hurricane Season rapidly approaching, associations should be checking with their agents and brokers to make sure that their property policies are in place and that all terms and conditions are understood. This includes the typical policies that provide coverage for events such as wind and fire, as well as flood insurance policies mostly issued by the National Flood Insurance Program.