Steven Plitt, Expert Witness Steven Plitt, Expert Witness
Insurance Bad Faith Claim Handling Expert Serving Clients Nationwide

CRACKING THE CONCEPT OF COLLAPSE IN A PROPERTY POLICY

In Valls v. Allstate Ins. Co., 919 F.3d 739 (2nd Cir. 2019) the 2nd Circuit construed the concept of collapse narrowly. The homeowner's insurance policy provided coverage for "the entire collapse" of a building structure, that "must be sudden and accidental" but the policy also excluded "cracking" from the definition of "collapse." Under that policy language the court found that building cracks in a basement's walls of the insured property, which was still standing, would not constitute collapse under the policy.

The Valls court considered the phrase "sudden and accidental" for purposes of determining "collapse." To the court, the phrase required an incident that occurred "both abruptly and unexpectedly." With that in mind, the "gradual erosion and cracking of the basement walls" in the insured's home were not covered under the insurance policy. Additionally, the court noted that even if the cracking had been sudden and accidental, the damage would have been excluded under the Allstate policy because there was no entire collapse of the house inasmuch as the basement walls were still standing. Additionally, "cracking" was expressly excluded under the collapse provision because the collapse provisions stated a collapse did not include "settling, cracking, shrinking, bulging, or expansion."

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