Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Superior Court holds no coverage for collapse of retaining wall

Plaintiffs Marc Levine and Ute Groening owned a house in Brookline.  The property behind theirs is at a higher elevation.  A 10 foot tall stone retaining wall sat on the property line for a century. 

A new owner purchased the rear property.  In order to level that property they installed a timber wall near the property line and backfilled the space with soil.  The plaintiffs alleged that the weight and pressure of the timber wall and additional soil overburdened the stone retaining wall, causing it to bow and crack.  They sought coverage from Merrimack Mutual Fire Insurance Company, their homeowner's insurer, for the loss.  Merrimack denied the claim.  The retaining wall subsequently collapsed entirely. 

In Levine v. Aljasa Realty LLC, 2016 WL 872903 (Mass. Super.), the Massachusetts Superior Court held that there was no coverage under the Merrimack policy.  Coverage B for "other structures" may have been initially triggered, but an exclusion for "loss involving collapse" applied.  Although there were exceptions to the exclusion, the exceptions did not apply to loss to a retaining wall "unless the loss is a direct result of the collapse of the building or any part of the building."   

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