The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the contract contained ambiguous language that would allow coverage.
Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry’s blog contains a discussion of the Court’s decision in Roche Bros. Supermarkets, LLC v. Continental Cas. Co., 2018 Mass. Super.LEXIS 81, a Massachusetts case in which the insured argued that it’s all risk commercial property insurance policy covered preventative maintenance.
During the winter of 2015, Roche Bros. Supermarkets “paid significant sums to have preventative snow removal undertaken at several locations insured under the subject policy. The insured claimed these efforts were to prevent structural damage at the locations.”
Roche filed a claim for reimbursement of this expense. The insurer declined coverage. Roche filed suit arguing that the terms of the contract were ambiguous and could be construed as covering preventative maintenance.
The court disagreed. “In finding against the insured, the court held that under the clear language of the policy, the insured’s interpretation was not reasonable.”
Although there has been a trend among the more liberal courts in the country to expand the interpretation of coverage clauses in all risk commercial insurance policies, there must be reasonable grounds for doing so within the language of a policy.
An ambiguity must be demonstrably misleading; language that can reasonably be misinterpreted. This, the court found, was not the case in the Roche policy.
The lesson to be learned from this ruling is that if coverage for preventative maintenance or any other type of damages is desired the policy should be drafted to explicitly state this.
Massachusetts Court Address Coverage For Preventative Maintenance, Traub Liberman Strauss & Shrewsberry, LLP, July 17, 2018.