Water Damage & Flooding
California Court Holds: A Flash Flood is....a Flood
Charles Mathis - Property Insurance Coverage
August 17, 2014
Last month, the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Fourth Appellate District held, “[a] flash flood is a type of ‘flood,’ as demonstrated by the fact that it is defined in terms of a flood.”1 While seemingly a no-brainer, this decision provides more than meets the eye.
Peter and Susan Horvath were homeowners and State Farm policyholders when their Dove Canyon, California home suffered water damage in December 2010. During a heavy rainstorm, storm drains in their neighborhood were “overwhelmed…causing water to come coursing down to nearby hills and surround [the] home with approximately three feet of water.
The Horvaths filed a claim with their homeowners insurance carrier, State Farm General Insurance Company (“State Farm”), “who denied the claim based on exclusions in the policy for damages caused by ‘flood’ or ‘surface water.’ Plaintiffs filed suit, and summary judgment was granted to State Farm, finding that the damage was either caused by either or both, flood or surface water.
The Plaintiffs appealed the trial court’s decision arguing that, “a ‘flood’ cannot be caused simply by excess rainfall, but only by an existing body of water exceeding its bounds and inundating the surrounding area with water.” The appellate court rejected this argument, found for State Farm and held that, “the plain meaning of ‘flood’ includes deluges caused by excess rainfall, which is what happened here.”
While not a “win” for policyholders in this case, this opinion may be utilized to fight flood insurance WYO carriers in later suits when they attempt to claim just the opposite. As you may remember from my prior blog post, Snowmelt, Heavy Rain, Floods and the Myth of Coverage, several similar situations have occurred, and flood claims have been denied as a result of heavy rainfall where only one property was inundated with water.
I’ll be interested to see what happens when both the homeowner’s carrier and the flood carrier each try to deny a claim where heavy rainfall causing flooding on only one individuals property.
On a related note, I spent a few dates in California last week and loved every minute of it. I can see why there are so many East Coast transplants there. Below is a photo I took while driving North on the Pacific Coast Highway, mile by mile it is an unbelievably beautiful ride:
1 Horvath v. State Farm General Ins. Co., No. G048457 (Cal. Ct. App. June 30, 2014),.
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