Wangerin v. N.Y. Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 2013 WL 5942376 (N.Y. App. Div. 3d Dept. 11/7/13)

New York courts’ interpretation of “collapse” did not require property “actually fall completely.”

The policy provided coverage for collapse of a building or part of a building if the collapse was caused by, among other things, “hidden insect or vermin damage.” While the policy did not define “collapse,” courts have interpreted the term to “involve[] an element of suddenness, a falling in, and total or near total destruction” and that collapse provisions cover “substantial impairment of the structural integrity of the building or any part of a building.” Here, the floors in the plaintiffs’ home dropped approximately four inches due to hidden insect infestation; no parts of the floors or ceilings fell completely. Despite the defendant’s allegations to the contrary, the plaintiffs’ expert found that the damage was “associated with a collapse of the structural members” rather than mere shifting or settlement. This court agreed with the New York Supreme Court’s decision favoring the plaintiffs’ expert’s testimony and held that the damage was consistent with New York courts’ interpretation of “collapse.”


Case Law Alert, 1st Quarter 2014