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Exploding Bodies and Named Peril Insurance Policies


Rarely in the world of homeowners insurance are there disputes or cases that we would consider to be gross or distasteful. But in the world of the law, you never know what kind of disputes can arise, and homeowner’s cases are no different. That’s why it may (or may not) be important to know that a few years ago, a Florida court ruled that damage to your property caused by an exploding decaying body, are not covered by your homeowner’s insurance.

Body Upstairs Explodes

The case was filed by a homeowner who sustained damage to her property, when a body in the unit above her condominium contained a dead body that went many days without being discovered. The body had begun to decay, and thus to leak (technically, the undetected corpse burst), and leaked into the Plaintiff’s unit, causing damage. This was aside from the intrusion of offensive smells.

The Plaintiff’s policy was one that was called a “named peril” policy. Unlike more encompassing or broader policies, a named peril policy, as the name implies, only provides coverage for causes of damage that are specifically named in the policy. There was, obviously, no coverage for decaying corpses in the policy.

Was There an “Explosion?”

There was, however, coverage for an “explosion,” and the homeowner tried to argue that the body had technically burst—exploded—and thus, the peril was in fact named under the policy. She even provided expert medical testimony at trial, detailing that the body (the corpse upstairs) did, in fact, burst. The policy contained no explicit definition of what an explosion was.

It is a common maxim of contractual language, that where a term is not vague or ambiguous, it will be given its common every day meaning. And, in fact, the court did rule that an explosion, as people commonly understand it, and thus as covered by the policy would not include a body bursting after decomposing.

Named Peril and All Risk Policies

The case illustrates the difference between general all encompassing homeowner’s insurance policies and named peril policies. The latter tend to be cheaper, as they only cover the dangers specifically listed in the policy. They are popular in areas that are not subject to a lot of danger to property, such as areas that don’t get hurricanes or earthquakes or tornadoes.

But saving money in a named peril policy can have consequences, because in real life, we often can’t anticipate what would cause damage to our property.

Contrasting to named peril policies are all risk policies, which specifically insure against dangers that the policy may not specifically name. The policy may still have specific exclusions, which you should read and pay attention to. But as long as a risk or danger is not excluded, an all risk policy will cover the damage to your property almost no matter what the cause.

Problems with getting coverage for damage to your property? Contact the Miami property damage insurance attorneys at Velasquez & Associates P.A. today for help.


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