Changes to cases, laws and regulations. Insurances change language. Property insurance legislation is always changing. A fairly recent example is an Ohio case that discussed sewer backup and overflow found for a policyholder but was later overturned by the Ohio Supreme Court.1
The bottom line to hold and discuss overriding the earlier case is:
In this case, for the first time, we are asked to interpret a provision found in nearly all commercial and personal insurance policies issued in Ohio. Specifically, we are asked to determine whether an exclusion barring coverage for damages caused by “water backing up or overflowing from a sewer”; includes damages caused by sewage carried onto an insured property by a backup or flood event. Based on the clear and unambiguous language of the policy before us, we hold that it does and therefore reverse the judgment of the Ninth District Court.
Obvious, ‘[w]ater that backs up or overflows from a drain” will include sewage. Indeed, there is no doubt that the average person buying insurance would understand that this is so. Capelouto v. Valley Forge Ins. Co., 98 Wash.App. 7, 17, 990 P.2d 414 (1999). After all, sewage carries an aqueous mixture that most people call “sewage”. Looks Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 2081 (2002) (defining a “sewer” as a “conduit for carrying away water and waste” and defining “sewage” as “waste fluids or waste materials carried by sewers”).
Despite the clear and unambiguous language of the policy, the Ninth District reached the opposite conclusion on the coverage issue presented here, finding that the water backup exclusion was ambiguous and in need of strict construction… To reach this result, the Court of Appeals relied on a dissenting and unreported decision, which concluded that another water backup exemption was ambiguous because it also did not specifically use the word “wastewater.” …looks Fairlawn Properties, Inc. v. Liberty Mut. ins. Co., 9th Dist. Summit no. 10671, 1982 Ohio App. LEXIS 12282, 1982 WL 5163, (Dec. 8, 1982). Both the dissent and the AKC would have us adopt that reasoning now. However, we decline to do so.
The bottom line is that nothing stays the same in the property insurance industry. You can be an expert one day but long after if you are not constantly alert to learn.
The more you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you will go.
― Dr. Seuss
1 AKC, Inc. v. United Specialty Ins. Co.166 Ohio St.3d 460, 187 NE3d 501 (Ohio 2021).