Condominium Left to Cover Hurricane Damages After Court Rules in Favor of Insurer
Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane that rolled through the Caribbean and the Florida Keys in 2017, left some pretty significant damage in its wake — specifically from wind and rain.
On record as the most intense hurricane to strike the U.S. since Katrina in 2005, Irma doused the Aquasol Condominium Association and its 276 units in Miami Beach, Fla. In unit 14D, Lucrezzia Davidson saw the devastation firsthand. She reported the damages to Aquasol.
Aquasol retained companies to fix the damage for its units. However, according to Davidson, the companies left more damage in their wake.
She claimed they damaged both her personal property and the unit she lived in. Further, Davidson alleged, the companies did not remediate for mold.
Davidson filed suit against Aquasol for the sustained damages. She cited breach of contract and negligence. Aquasol turned to its commercial general liability insurer for help.
The policy was held through Mt. Hawley Insurance Company. When the general liability notice of occurrence was submitted to Mt. Hawley, the insurer denied coverage.
It stated that there was a clause within the policy in which property damage for “association members” was excluded from coverage. Aquasol made a demand in court that Mt. Hawley defend or indemnify it in the underlying suit.
The court reviewed the language of the policy. It read, “This insurance does not apply to ‘property damage’ or ‘personal and advertising injury’ for any claim or ‘suit’ made by or brought on behalf of an ‘association member’ against any Insured including, but not limited to any ‘employee’ or ‘executive officer’ of the Named Insured or any other ‘association member.’ ”
The policy also offered a definition for “association member,” stating that it referred to any owner or member of the homeowners or condominium owners within the Aquasol units.
Scorecard: The court agreed the language was unambiguous: The underlying Davidson suit would not be covered by the insurer due to Davidson’s status as an association member of Aquasol.
Takeaway: Those in charge of maintaining large properties with residents or renters should work with their insurer to guarantee coverages for natural disasters and other catastrophes that might arise. &