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Anti-concurrent cause: A shield, a sword or both? You decide.

Jessica L. Murray | June 18, 2020

In Sebo v. American Assurance Co., Inc., 208 So. 3d 694 (Fla. 2016), the Supreme Court found that when two or more perils converge to cause a loss and at least one of the perils is excluded from coverage under an “all-risk” policy, the insurance carrier is required to cover all of the damage because “there is no reasonable way to distinguish the proximate cause of [the] property loss.” Sebo, at 699.  This is known as the Concurrent Cause Doctrine.  The Supreme Court clarified, however, that the Concurrent Cause Doctrine does not otherwise nullify all exclusionary language and that a policy can be written to avoid such a result.   Known as an “anti-concurrent clause,” such language acts as a shield to preclude coverage when a covered loss and a non-covered loss converge to produce damage. 

Recently, Florida’s Third District in Security First Insurance Company v. Czelusniak, ---So.3d--- 2020 WL2463762, at *1 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. May 13, 2020), reiterated the application of the anti-concurrent clause as a complete bar to coverage.  In Czelusniak, the claimed loss was caused by water  entering a home.   In entering a directed verdict in favor of the insured despite the existence of an anti-concurrent cause, the trial court reasoned that although water entering through a door was not expressly excluded under the policy, the jury would be unable to separate the water that came in through the door (non-excluded cause) from water that came in through the walls and windows (excluded causes).
 
The appellate court reversed the directed verdict and held that the  entire loss was excluded from coverage due to the anti-concurrent cause provision.   In accordance with Sebo, the Third District Court of Appeal stated that, “when the insurer explicitly avoids the application of the concurring-cause doctrine with an anti-concurrent cause provision, the plain language of the policy precludes recovery.” 
 
The Third District’s ruling in Czelusniak solidifies the protection afforded to insurers under an anti-concurrent clause and can be used as a shield against the plaintiff’s bar, who has used the concurrent cause doctrine as a sword to pressure insurance companies to pay for the complete replacement of roofs that are old and deteriorated, where there is minimal damage from wind or other covered loss.  

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