Defining what constitutes a "collapse" according to modern political regulations is a highly tested issue in Florida. Insurers have repeatedly changed / revised the definition of collapse to more precisely limited coverage, which has led to constantly evolving legal interpretations of these provisions. Many exceptional blogs have been written to clarify this confusing coverage, including Court Defines "Collapse" by Merlin Law Group attorney Shane Smith and What constitutes an "abrupt collapse"? by Merlin Bar Association Attorney Edward Eshoo.
It is important to understand the factual scenarios with the application of collapse protection, as your homeowner's insurance may include additional "collapse" coverage. Many insurances limit coverage to certain causes of collapse, such as hidden decay, damage to insects / pests and the weight of the rain, to name a few. But how serious must the damage be before coverage is given? The first instinct may be to ensure the policy of clarification, but as the following (common) provision shows, the definition in many insurances does not do much to simplify the question:
We insure for direct physical loss to covered property that involves the sudden collapse of a building or any part of a building.
For this additional coverage collapse, abrupt collapse means a sudden fall or cave of a building or any part of a building with the result that the building or part of the building cannot be used for its intended purpose.
Although this provision is intended to define more precisely what constitutes an "abrupt collapse", it still leaves phrases such as "abrupt", "falling down" and "cave in" open to interpretation. In addition, it provides some guidance on the extent to which the building or any part of a building must fall down or cave in to fall within coverage. As the following cases show, omitting qualifying languages results in a ambiguity that favors coverage for the insured.
In Kings Ridge Community Association v. Sagamore Insurance Company 1
(1) With respect to buildings:
(a) Collapse means that a building or any part of a building suddenly collapses or results in the building or part of the building not being able to be occupied for its intended purpose. purpose.
The facts of the case were relatively straightforward. On February 24, 2010, the plaintiff's clubhouse roof began to shake and parts of the roof and the roof and deflected considerably downwards. 2 The insurer refused to extend the coverage under the collapse provision and then filed an application for summary judgment claiming that the roof had not "fallen" under the policy and the building remained standing. 3 The court found that the depressed roof fell within the definition of a "falling" and "cave in" according to the policy terms. The court held that the policy did not specify how far a part of a building must fall or the degree to which a building must cave to constitute a "collapse." 4
Specifically, the court stated:
Finally, the record states that the building is structurally unsafe and cannot be used for its intended purpose. It is obvious that you cannot occupy a building if it has completely collapsed or penetrated. However, the same may be the case for a part of a building that has partially fallen down or given way. The policy does not clearly require total destruction for a "collapse" to occur. To the extent that the policy can be interpreted as meaning that the roof must have fallen to the ground for coverage to apply, the policy is ambiguous. 5
As this language indicates, whether a loss amounts to a sudden collapse (and therefore a "falling" or "cave") depends to a large extent on the facts and on the language of subject policy. It is equally important if the policy specifically describes the level of destruction required before coverage. In most circumstances, for example in Kings Ridge, the absence of such language is unclear as to what degree of fallout or cave is required for coverage to apply.
While I recommend reading the Kings Ridge case in its entirety for the whole context, a principle that can be deduced from possession is: A partial collapse (or partial "fall down or" give in ") is still a covered loss, and the policy must "clearly" require some extent of damage before coverage can be limited to "total destruction" (or any other limiting damage).
1 Kings Ridge Cmty. Ass'n, Inc. v. Sagamore Ins. Co. 98 So.3d 74, 78 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012).
2 Id. at 75
3 Id. at 77
4 </ sup Id. at 78