The United States District Court for the District of Connecticut recently reaffirmed its ruling that the term “collapse,” as defined by a homeowners insurance policy, is unambiguous and that the policy in question did not provide coverage for the alleged “cracking” and/or “bulging” of the insureds’ foundation walls.  In Alexander v. Gen. Ins. Co. of Am., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5963 (D. Conn. Jan. 17, 2017), the court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration, rejecting their argument that the policy’s definition of collapse is ambiguous. The court had previously granted the insurer’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that the policy’s definition of “collapse” is unambiguous and the policy’s language expressly excludes coverage for cracking or bulging.

The plaintiffs owned a home insured by the defendant. They claimed that, in May of 2015, they discovered a series of horizontal and vertical cracks in their basement walls. They eventually learned that this condition was caused by pyrrhotite, a mineral contained in certain concrete aggregate during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The plaintiffs made a claim for coverage under their insurance policy, and the defendant denied their claim on the basis that the condition of the plaintiffs’ foundation walls did not constitute a “collapse” as defined by the policy.

The policy provided limited additional coverage for “collapse,” defined as “an abrupt falling down or caving in of a building or any part of a building . . . .” Id. at *2. The policy also stated that a “building or any part of a building that is standing is not considered to be in a state of collapse even if it shows evidence of cracking, bulging, sagging, bending, leaning, settling, shrinkage or expansion.” Id. at *3. The plaintiffs argued that a “caving in” must be something other than a “falling down” or else the term would be superfluous. See 7/7/2016 Motion Hr’g Tr. at 3. The plaintiffs further argued that the term “caving in” is defined by a number of dictionaries to mean yielding or submitting to pressure, and that the inward bulging of the foundation walls showed that the walls had yielded or submitted to pressure. Id. The court rejected this argument, noting that the policy’s collapse definition explicitly excluded “bulging.” Id. at 3-4.

The court found that the plaintiffs failed to allege facts demonstrating that either a falling down or caving in had occurred. Alexander, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS at *6. Noting that the plaintiffs did not present any evidence or controlling case law that would cause the court to reconsider its prior decision, the court held that no collapse had occurred within the meaning of the policy and denied the plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration.

This decision may be useful to insurers litigating the issue of the meaning of “collapse” in property insurance policies.