Monday, May 4, 2009

U.S. Court of Appeals defines "adumbrate"

My next several posts will discuss Essex Ins. Co. v. BloomSouth Flooring Corp., a decision just handed down by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

The case addresses whether a liability insurance policy issued to a building contractor covers losses arising from an unpleasant odor emanating from a carpet the contractor installed. My next posts will deal with the substance of the decision.

For now, though, I want to applaud the Court of Appeals for providing a definition of "adumbrate." I have discussed how a court determines whether an insurer has a duty to defend("the eight corners test") here. The standard language is, "if the allegations of the complaint are 'reasonably susceptible' of an interpretation that they state or adumbrate a claim covered by the policy terms, the insurer has a duty to defend."

Although I have quoted that language numerous times in legal briefs, I have always skimmed over the word "adumbrate" without pausing to consider what exactly it means.

The Court of Appeals has now been kind enough to provide a definition in footnote 1 of the decision: "We have defined 'adumbrate' in the liability insurance context to mean 'to give a sketchy representation of; outline broadly, omitting details . . . or to suggest, indicate or disclose partially and with a purposeful avoidance of precision.'"

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