Water Damage and Massachusetts Homeowner Insurance

Boston and its area suburbs in Massachusetts suffered substantial flooding during a six day period in May 2006. And a case recently decided in Essex Superior Court shows the need to make sure you fully understand all your insurance policies, including: car accident and injury insurance and homeowner’s insurance. The personal injury attorneys at the Boston Law Office of Neil Burns want to inform Massachusetts residents regarding their homeowner’s insurance policies. We deal with insurance companies every day, and we understand the complexity of insurance policies.

In the case, Cortina Realty Trust obtained a homeowner’s policy of insurance the following exclusion: ‘This policy does not insure against loss or damage caused by, resulting from, contributed to or aggravated by: (a)(2) flood, meaning surface water, waves tide or tidal water, and the rising (including the overflowing or breaking of boundaries) of lakes, ponds, reservoirs, rivers, harbors, streams, and other similar bodies of water whether driven by water or not; (b)(1) backing up of sewers or drains due to an occurrence of nature.’

Cortina Realty Trust tried to get their insurance company to cover the damage caused by flooding by claiming that it was the negligent opening of the Walden Pond flood valve that caused the water damage. Because of the flood value being opened, they claimed that the flood exclusion did not apply. But the insurance company disagreed, contending that since the damage was caused by flooding, the exclusion in this instance applied regardless of the exact cause.

The Court agreed with the insurer. The Court found that “the actions of the Lynn Water and Sewer Commission did not alter the language of the exclusionary clause nor the obligations under the policy. The release of the flood valve was a purposeful act that the Lynn Water and Sewer Commission deemed a necessary response to the flooding that overtook the region. Simply because Lynn city officials had to make a determination pursuant to their official duties, does not change the fact that the damage to the plaintiffs property was ’caused by, and resulted from’ flooding throughout eastern Massachusetts.”
The case is found at: Cortina Realty Trust v. Pacific Insurance Company, Ltd., (Lowy, J.) (Essex Superior Court) (Civil Action No. 09-986-A) (Sept. 27, 2010).