On June 6, 2023, in Gold Creek Condominium-Phase I Assn. of Apartment Owners v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., Ninth Circuit Case No. 22-35606, Soha & Lang, PS attorneys Paul Rosner, Sarah Davenport, and Jillian Henderson filed an amici brief on behalf of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. The brief addressed the trigger of coverage in a first-party property insurance claim when there are hidden damages and the policy covers loss “commencing during the policy period.” It asked the Ninth Circuit to adopt an injury-in-fact trigger theory, which would provide clarity for cases involving hidden rainwater damage – a common hazard for property in Washington.
The brief argued that, while a continuous trigger theory has been adopted by Washington courts in the context of third-party insurance, such a theory is inconsistent with the language and policies involved in first-party property claims. Unlike in third-party insurance, the brief explained, “[a] property owner’s potential loss is capped at the value of the insured property.”
The brief also argued the term “commence” is not ambiguous under Washington law, and an injury-in-fact theory is consistent with both the policy language and Washington law, as “no reasonable policyholder would answer that the loss ‘commenced’ 55 times in a single year.”
Finally, the brief offered the alternative argument for a manifestation trigger, where coverage is determined when damage becomes apparent. Such a trigger “provides a bright-line rule that creates certainty for both insureds and insurers.”
Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Soha & Lang, P.S. or its clients.