May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
by Leonard Rivkin
Barnes & Noble CLE Books

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Quote of the Day - One of the simple but genuine pleasures in life is getting up in the morning and hurrying to a mousetrap you set the night before. - Kin Hubbard
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From Use It And Lose It to Lose It and You Can't Use It

First we had use it and lose it, and now we have lose it and you can't use it.

We're talking insurance, in the former, homes in the latter.

Here, we have a homeowner's house that got damaged by a tree that was pushed into it by a landslide that was caused by rain.

So, what's covered and what's not? Under the policy, rain is, landslides aren't.

You would think that because rain is covered, and rain was the cause of the chain of events that led to the damage, the policy covered the loss, but you'd be wrong. You may not have read California Insurance Code section 530. It's one of the most confusing statutes I've read, and the Supreme Court opinion above clarifies it fairly well. Here's how they say it:

"When a loss is caused by a combination of a covered and specifically excluded risks, the loss is covered if the covered risk was the efficient proximate cause of the loss," but "the loss is not covered if the covered risk was only a remote cause of the loss, or the excluded risk was the efficient proximate, or predominate cause."

Yeah, I know, it's not much clearer than the statute. Let me see if I can do better: if the cause of the loss is covered by the policy, but too remote in the causal chain of events, there's no coverage.

Remember Palsgraf? The case reminds me of the game called Mousetrap - the conductor at one end of the train platform helped a man on to a train by pushing him as it was pulling away from the station, which caused the man to drop a package that exploded, causing a scale to fall on the other end of the platform and hit Mrs. Palsgraf. Verdict: conductor not liable.

Same verdict here, apparently. Too many causes between the rain and the damage to the house. Or were there?

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, May 05, 2005 at 23:52 Comments (0)


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