Jury finds in favor of insured homeowner who sufffered "collapse;" verdict upheld in Court of Appeals
Andrew Kokas sued Citizens Insurance Company, his own insurer, after his kitchen nook fell away from the house and required substantial repair. He had purchased a "deluxe" policy from Citizens which purported to cover "collapses" of a building--or part of a building--but did not cover damages caused by "settling" or earth shifting.
In all-too-typical adjuster fashion, the Citizens representative argued that the nook had not "collapsed" because an insured collapse must be "complete, with the structure flattened." The homeowner argued that the undefined term included a shift in structure large enough to separate the nook from the kitchen and to make the floor so uneven that a tennis ball would not remain stationary on the floor. The parties also presented opposing experts' theories about what caused the nook to fall away from the kitchen.
Ultimately, the jury agreed with the homeonwer that he had purchased coverage, and granted his request for a verdict. Citizens appealed, arguing the verdict was against the great weight of the evidence, that it violated the policy language and that it was too large, given the proofs. The Court of Appeals struck down each of these arguments. It noted that there was ample evidence to support the jurors' determination of cause; that the trial judge's and jurors' interpretation of "collapse" was a reasonable interpretation of the policy language; and that the homeowner had presented adequate evidence of his resulting expenses.