Home Property Insurance Washington Supreme Courtroom Reaffirms the Broad Nature of Ensuing Loss Exceptions to Exclusions

Washington Supreme Courtroom Reaffirms the Broad Nature of Ensuing Loss Exceptions to Exclusions

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Washington Supreme Courtroom Reaffirms the Broad Nature of Ensuing Loss Exceptions to Exclusions

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Washington is likely one of the most pro-policyholder states within the nation. As we lately famous in Dan Veroff Discusses Washington Insurance coverage Legislation, Washington imposes extreme penalties for mishandled claims. As a brand new instance of the state’s dedication to defending policyholders, the Washington Supreme Courtroom issued an opinion on Thursday reaffirming a pro-policyholder precept established 12 years in the past in a pair of opinions. Not solely had the court docket already addressed the problem within the current previous, however within the new case, the intermediate appellate court docket already bought the reply proper and adopted the prevailing precedent. The one court docket erring within the chain of occasions resulting in the brand new resolution was the trial court docket, which had already been reversed. Thus, the brand new opinion just isn’t solely needed however a lot appreciated. Whereas the topic had already been lined, the subject is advanced, and new opinions make sure the regulation continues to be utilized correctly. Washington clearly cares deeply about its policyholders and making certain the regulation is adopted.

The Washington Supreme Courtroom reaffirmed its stance on ensuing loss exceptions to exclusions established in 2012. The court docket confirmed that insurance coverage insurance policies with ensuing loss exceptions cowl all ensuing losses, even when the coverage says the exclusion applies even when it “initiates a sequence of occasions that leads to loss or injury, whatever the nature of any intermediate or last occasion in that sequence.” Thus, it affirmed that the exception covers even ensuing losses which can be a part of the identical chain of causation because the excluded occasion.

Examples are one of the best clarification of this protection provision for these unfamiliar. For instance, an insurance coverage coverage may exclude protection to restore a damaged plumbing part however cowl the following water injury to the house. As one other instance, a coverage may exclude the associated fee to restore a development defect like faulty window sealing however cowl the following water injury from a rainstorm. Insurance coverage corporations have argued, as they did within the case earlier than the Washington Supreme Courtroom, that these ensuing loss provisions solely apply to losses which can be outdoors the conventional and anticipated sequence of occasions from the excluded trigger. Thus, insurers argue that water injury is predicted from a plumbing break, so it isn’t a part of the following loss exception to the exclusion for damaged pipes.

The Washington Supreme Courtroom rejected this interpretation in two 2012 instances with completely different outcomes. Within the first and first case, it held {that a} collapse ensuing from defective workmanship was lined below an all danger coverage with the identical language that it evaluated once more in 2024. 1 The insured in that case had an “all danger” coverage that excluded protection for losses attributable to defective workmanship, even when it “initiates a sequence of occasions that leads to loss or injury, whatever the nature of any intermediate or last occasion in that sequence.” It additionally included an ensuing loss exception, stating, “If loss or injury [caused] by a Coated Reason for Loss outcomes [from the excluded event], we can pay for that ensuing loss or injury.” The Supreme Courtroom of Washington reversed the Courtroom of Appeals and stated nothing a couple of requirement that the lined peril be impartial. As an alternative, it particularly rejected the argument that the ensuing loss provision solely “applies when an excluded peril causes a separate and impartial lined peril.” 2

Within the different 2012 case, the Washington Supreme Courtroom discovered that the collapse of a deck was not an impartial peril, and thus not an excepted ensuing loss, from the defective development and decay that brought on its collapse within the first place. 3 The court docket reiterated the rule from the case talked about above that below a ensuing loss exception, ensuing loss attributable to an excluded peril is roofed until it’s topic to its personal exclusion. Nevertheless, it held that the superior decay of the fin partitions was not a separate, ensuing loss lined by the coverage. It discovered that whether or not the deck was in a state of collapse was irrelevant because the deck’s situation was the results of two excluded perils—faulty development and decay—and didn’t represent a separate loss other than these perils. As a result of “the pure course of of degradation will end in collapse,” it discovered {that a} collapse is merely the top results of deterioration and never a brand new and completely different peril from rot. 4

Given the opinions above, the Washington Supreme Courtroom didn’t must tackle a brand new case on the topic, however we respect that it did so nonetheless. In The Gardens Condominium v. Famers Insurance coverage Trade, the Condominium discovered injury to its roof from condensation. The Condominium traced the injury to defective design and development of the constructing’s roof that prevented satisfactory air flow, inflicting water vapor to condense on the underside of the roof. After believing that they had repaired the injury, it was later found the fixes nonetheless didn’t enable for adequate air flow, leading to additional condensation and ensuing property injury from the extra defective workmanship.

The Condominium was insured below a Farmers “all danger” coverage that excluded protection for losses attributable to defective workmanship, with the identical actual language stating that the exclusion applies even when it “initiates a sequence of occasions that leads to loss or injury, whatever the nature of any intermediate or last occasion in that sequence.” It additionally included an ensuing loss exception, stating, “If loss or injury [caused] by a Coated Reason for Loss outcomes [from the excluded event], we can pay for that ensuing loss or injury.”

The Condominium contended that Farmers didn’t need to pay the prices to restore the defective workmanship however did need to cowl the price of the injury attributable to condensation. In different phrases, the loss ensuing from the excluded occasion, condensation ensuing from defective workmanship, is roofed as an exception to the exclusion. Regardless of the clear regulation, Farmers disagreed, arguing that “the ensuing loss exception applies provided that a lined occasion breaks the causal chain between the excluded danger and subsequent losses or if there’s injury to different property.”

Regardless of two Washington Supreme Courtroom opinions on the topic, the trial court docket agreed with Farmers by trying to authority from the Sixth Circuit Courtroom of Appeals. Nevertheless, Washington just isn’t a part of the Sixth Circuit, which applies legal guidelines of various states. The Courtroom of Appeals reversed. According to the 2 opinions referenced above, it reasoned that by together with the ensuing loss clause, Farmers agreed to pay for injury attributable to a lined peril even when it outcomes from defective workmanship. Thus, if condensation and humidity are lined perils below the coverage, the coverage should cowl injury attributable to these perils. The court docket additionally identified that this court docket had by no means interpreted ensuing loss clauses to protect protection just for injury attributable to impartial, unexpected lined perils. The court docket remanded to the trial court docket to find out if condensation was a lined peril and, due to this fact, whether or not the ensuing loss exception utilized.

The Washington Supreme Courtroom took the case and affirmed. 5 In so doing, it adopted the prevailing precedent, particularly noting that the identical language was at subject in one of many prior two instances on the topic. The court docket additionally famous that insurers may keep away from this consequence by merely not together with an ensuing loss exception.

Farmers argues this holding will imply ‘there may by no means be any excluded sequence of occasions.’ We disagree. Insurers are free to draft insurance policies that comprise ‘sequence of occasions’ causation language and don’t have ensuing loss exceptions to the exclusions. As Gardens appropriately factors out, Farmers may have drafted the coverage in a different way to make sure that the complete causal chain ensuing from an excluded peril could be excluded by not together with a ensuing loss exception or by limiting the exception.

Lastly, the Washington Supreme Courtroom briefly thought of the insured’s secondary argument that the coverage was ambiguous and may, due to this fact, be construed in favor of protection. The court docket famous that it rejected the identical argument in 2012. “Though this coverage could also be complicated, it isn’t ambiguous.”

The opinion was signed by all 9 justices of the Washington Supreme Courtroom.


1 Imaginative and prescient One, LLC v. Phila. Indem. Ins. Co., 158 Wn. App. 91 (Wash. App. 2010).
2 Imaginative and prescient One, LLC, 158 Wn. App. at 107.
3 Sprague v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Am., 174 Wn.second 524, 276 P.3d 1270 (2012).
4 Sprague, 174 Wn.second at 530.
5 The Gardens Condominium v. Famers Ins. Trade, No. 101892-4, — Wn.second — (Wash. Mar. 14, 2024).



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