Monday was a snowy day in the Northeast. I discovered this at the United Airlines ticket counter at 6 am when my flight to Newark was cancelled due to snow. It seems as if a new snowstorm blows into New York and New Jersey on a weekly basis this winter. These inclement snowstorms made me think how many multiple claims there may be as each of these winter storms cause more damage.
NEWMONT MINES LIMITED v. HANOVER INSURANCE COMPANY, 784 F.2d 127 (2d Cir. 1995) is a case where snow damage was disputed as being one or two events under a property insurance policy. The annotated version of facts and the dispute are as follows:
“…Newmont personnel discovered that a section of the concentrator roof, measuring approximately 55 by 200 feet and located just below the midline of the concentrator (line G), had collapsed sometime between March 1st and March 14th. The collapse was due to the weight of ice and snow. On March 17th, a second section of the roof, measuring approximately eighty by seventy feet and located in the upper half of the building some seventy-five feet above the area of the first hole, collapsed due to the weight of ice and snow. Both collapses occurred in portions of the roof having a load capacity of 140 pounds per square foot.
Hanover and Utica also asserted that the collapses of the two sections of the roof constituted one occurrence rather than two because both were caused by the same accumulation of snow and ice on the roof.
Hanover and Utica contend that since the two collapses of the roof were caused by the same condition (excessive snow accumulating on the roof of the concentrator), both collapses should be considered to constitute only one occurrence. They claim that “[t]he legal test for determining whether there is one or more than one occurrence turns upon the cause of the damage and not the items damaged.”
The Court disagreed with the interpretation by the insurers:
“On the other hand, when construing a property damage policy, as we are here, the business purpose sought to be achieved by the parties is considerably different. The goal of such a policy, simply stated, is to provide financial protection against damage to property. In accordance with this purpose, the parties here must have intended to provide coverage for property damage each time it occurred unexpectedly and without design, unless the damage occurring at one point in time was merely part of a single, continuous event that already had caused other damage. If we looked only to the cause of the damage, as Hanover and Utica would have us do, it would lead to the absurd result that the collapse of the roof of one building caused on one day by a snowstorm would be considered the same occurrence as an entirely unrelated collapse days later of the roof of another building located several miles away simply because the same snowstorm was the cause of both collapses. Indeed, even if the damage caused by the first collapse was repaired completely and a claim filed with the insurer before the second collapse occurred, they both would be considered one occurrence by Hanover and Utica.”
Facts of cases involving multiple losses are extraordinarily important. While the jury in this case had evidence to show that the two collapses caused by snow accumulation were separate losses, I can think of many situations where snow and ice accumulation continuously cause break and destroy property. Investigation is a key to winning these cases.
I am off to Reno, Nevada for some training with other firm attorneys today. I return to New Jersey on Friday and then most of next week. The weather prediction– more snow.
Positive Thought for the Day:
"I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 things that do not work."
And since we are on the topic of snow, how about a great song from Snow Patrol: