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Connecticut Supreme Court Addresses Narrow Definition of “Collapse” Under Property Policy

by | Feb 11, 2020 | Duty to Indemnify, Duty to Indemnity, Homeowner Insurance, Insurance Law, Property Insurance, Property Policy

In a companion case to the Karas v. Liberty Insurance Corporation case discussed in a previous entry, the Connecticut Supreme Court addressed the issue of collapse coverage under a property insurance policy which provided coverage when a building collapses and which narrowly defined the term “collapse”  to mean “an abrupt falling down or caving in of a building or any part of a building with the result that the building or part of the building cannot be occupied by its current intended purpose.”  Jemiola v. Hartford Casualty Company, 2019 WL 5955904 (Nov. 12, 2019).  The policy at issue in Jemiola excluded from collapse coverage a building that is still standing but with evidence of cracking, bulging, sagging, bending, leaning, settling, shrinkage or expansion.  The Supreme Court concluded that the policy’s definition of “collapse”, unlike the policies in Beach v. Middlesex Mutual Assurance Co., 205 Conn. 246 (1987), and Karas, provided a sufficiently narrow definition of the term “collapse” to require that there be an abrupt falling down or caving in of the insured premises in order for their to be a collapse for purposes of coverage under the policy.  Given the narrow definition of the term “collapse” in the policy, the court ruled that the substantial impairment of structural integrity standard which it previously addressed in Beach and further interpreted in Karas did not apply for purposes of determining whether the insured building was in a state of collapse. The Connecticut Supreme Court, like the appellate courts in many other jurisdictions that have addressed property policies with the narrow definition of “collapse”, ruled that a building that is still standing with evidence of cracking, bulging or settling, even if it is in a danger of falling down, has not suffered a collapse under the policy.

The Connecticut Supreme Court decisions in Karas and Jemiola appear to have established the standards in Connecticut for determining when collapse coverage is available under a property policy depending on whether or not the term “collapse” is narrowly defined in an insurance policy.  Like the court’s decision in Karas, the Jemiola decision likely impacts many property owners in northeastern Connecticut who were adversely affected by the use of defective concrete in the construction of their buildings.    

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