United States: Florida court finds rust and corrosion an “act of nature”
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A Florida court recently ruled that rust and corrosion in water pipes was an “act of nature” and therefore excluded from coverage under a home insurance policy. In Dodge v. People’s Trust Insurance Company, 2021 WL 2217299 (4th DCA June 2, 2021), the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals defined “act of nature” as a natural force that does not require an event that is uncontrollable or impossible to prevent.
The facts in Dodge were undisputed. The overflow of water from the insureds’ plumbing system caused damage to their home, and the parties agreed that the loss resulted from the deterioration of the cast iron pipes under the home due to “rust or other corrosion”. The policy in question contained an exclusion for water damage for “. . . water overflow. . . caused by or resulting from human or animal forces or any act of nature.
The dispute revolved around the definition of “act of nature”. Policyholders argued that the phrase “act of nature” was triggered only if a singular act or external force occurred. They also argued that the phrase “act of nature” was synonymous with the phrase “act of God”, which Black’s Law Dictionary defined as “an irresistible and unpreventable event caused exclusively by the forces of God. nature . . . . “Because the corrosion of their plumbing system was not due to an” exceptional and unforeseeable event “, the insured argued that the cause of their loss did not trigger the application of the exclusion for the damage caused. by water.
The court disagreed and ruled that “act of nature” simply means “something that happens naturally” and that rust and corrosion fit that broad definition. The court defined “act” as “doing a thing” and “nature” as “the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing”. The court further defined “rust” as the “brittle reddish coating formed on iron, especially when chemically attacked by moist air”, and “corrosion” as “the action, process or the effect of corrosion ”, which consists of“ gradually wearing out in chemical action. The court observed that rust is a form of corrosion because it is the product of a chemical reaction between iron and moist air, and corrosion is an “act of nature” because it is ” the chemical action of the inherent character of the thing – the wearing away of iron by moist air.
Based on the above definitions, the court concluded that the political term “act of nature” did not require an event that was uncontrollable or impossible to prevent, and excluded damage caused by natural forces. Since rust and corrosion are a natural force, they were characterized as an “act of nature” and the resulting loss was therefore excluded from coverage by the exclusion for water damage. Therefore, the total coverage of the insured was subject to a sublimated water damage coverage rider of $ 10,000.
By virtue of the broad definition established in Dodge, the term “act of nature” can now be applied to controllable, preventable and gradual events under Florida law. While the Dodge limiting itself to rust and corrosion, its reasoning could allow insurers to apply the term “act of nature” to any natural event that affects the inherent character or basic constitution of something.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.
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