In a case involving collapse under a property insurance policy, the Washington Court of Appeals in Feenix Parkside, LLC v. Berkley North Pacific, 438 P.3d 597 (Wash. App. 4/8/19) broadly defined the concept of “decay” in an insurance policy’s coverage for collapse due to “decay.” The court in Feenix held that where the term “decay” was not defined in the insurance policy, that the term needed to be interpreted in a manner consistent with the way the average purchaser of insurance would understand the term. Making this determination, the appellate court found that the trial court’s ruling that “decay” meant some kind of decomposition of material was too narrow. The Court of Appeals adopted a broader definition of “decay” that included “a gradual decline in strength or soundness.” Thus, in the state of Washington, where a property insurance policy covering collapse due to “decay” does not define the meaning of the term “decay” then the coverage is not limited to organic rot for purposes of determining collapse, but included in a broad sense the concept of “decay,” meaning a gradual decline in strength or soundness.
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