Monday, September 13, 2010

U.S. District Court adopts broader definition of "part" in collapse coverage

A wall in a building in Holyoke owned by Puerta de la Esperanza settled between six and ten inches, with resulting damage to floors, walls, and plumbing fixtures. The settling was caused by the collapse of a load-bearing brick pier.

Puerta de la Esperanza requested coverage from its insurer, Middlesex, who sought a declaratory judgment that the pier's failure was not a "collapse." The policy defined collapse as "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 for its intended purpose[.]"

The pier was a component of the building but not an area of the building. Middlesex argued that the word "part" refers only to a physical area but not a structural component of the building. Puerta de la Esperanza argued that the term "part" can mean either an area or a component of the building.

In Middlesex Mut. Ass. Co. v. Puerta de la Esperanza, LLC, ___ F. Supp. 2d ___, 2010 WL 2639859 (D. Mass), the United States District Court adopted the broader definition of "part," and held that there was coverage because the pier, a component of the building, collapsed.

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