When inches of snow piled up outside my home, I thought it was a good time to see if there were any recent cases that interpreted insurance "freezing exclusion." Usually, property insurance policies exclude coverage from damage resulting from frozen pipes unless the insured has used reasonable care to maintain the heat. 1
As I discussed in a previous post, 2 courts that interpreted the policy "The language of" reasonable care "for" maintaining heat "has concluded that an insured person should not be excluded from coverage for losses caused by freezing if they took objectively reasonable action, that is, steps that an ordinary person in their position would have taken to ensure that the temperature in their home remained above freezing.
In a recent case in New Jersey, 3 a 76-year-old insured left his home in March 201
The insured's mail was sent to his son's home while he was away. During that time, the insured gas was shut down by a contractor in connection with sidewalk repairs. The insured was never explicitly notified that his gas supply was shut down, but he did receive and pay eight gas bills each month – which, due to his payment schedule, remained relatively constant even though gas was not delivered to his home.
The insured returned to his home in February 2018, when major floods and water damage were discovered. After inspection, it was clear that the damage was caused by the cooling pipes freezing and failing as a result of no heat being supplied to the home. The insured sued his homeowner insurer after denying his claim, saying: “Since your loss is the direct result of the gas pipeline being locked out and freezing, we must take the position that your claim does not fall within the terms of your insurance.
After the insurer submitted a request for a summary assessment of the insured's breach of the contract claim, the court found that a jury could find that the insured acted reasonably to maintain the heat in his home because he left his home with the thermostat at. 60 degrees, left spare keys with the neighbors and informed the police that he was leaving. In addition, while the insured was informed that municipal repairs "could" lead to a gas outage, there was no indication that the insured had any reason to know that the outage was safe or even probable.
If your frozen pipe claim has been wrongly denied, contact your local Merlin Law Group Attorney.
1 The same insurances also provide coverage for frozen pipe damage if the insured has "switched off the water supply and emptied the system and appliances of water."
2 https: //www.propertyins .com / 2019/02 / articles / insurance / broken-pipe-during-polar-vortex-dont-let-your-policies-freezing -exclusion-leave-you-covered-for-losses-from-arctic-cold /  3 Titley v.Hanover Ins. Co. 2020 WL 5229387 (DNJ 2 September 2020).