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Cast Iron Pipe Case Defense Verdict

Kara K. Byrnes and Michael J. Carney | June 2, 2022

Kara Kennedy Cosse, of our Jacksonville office, and Michael Carney, of our Ft. Lauderdale office, obtained a defense verdict in a cast iron pipe trial against Mark Nation of Nation Law Firm. The insured filed a lawsuit alleging accidental resulting damage to his bathroom floor and connecting hallway from sewage that backed up out of a toilet due to deteriorated, collapsed, 52-year-old cast iron pipes. The insured claimed he was working on the date of loss and that his sister called him to come home from work to help clean up sewage on the floor. The carrier initially paid the resulting damage to the floor and hallway based on representations by the insured that the damages were accidental, but denied replacement of the pipes because they were deteriorated and specifically excluded in the policy. The insured sued the carrier, requested trenching of his home to replace the cast iron pipes.

Kara and Michael successfully argued to the jury that payment should never have been made in the first place, as the loss was not accidental based on the insured’s prior claim history and because a billboard was the impetus for the lawsuit, not a physical loss. The insured had four (4) prior claims that depicted the property’s general unkempt condition over a span of 10 years, and photographs of the unrelated claims depicted two (2) prior PVC plumbing re-routes in the kitchen and laundry room. The insured reported all four (4) prior claims immediately, and the claim in dispute was reported three (3) months late. Critically, the insured admitted he saw billboard advertisements for cast iron pipes prior to the loss and actually changed the date of loss on the stand when Michael confirmed with him that he was a government employee who would not have been working on November 22, 2018, as he swore to, because November 22, 2018 was Thanksgiving when federal employees do not work. Kara and Michael took the position that the insured knew or should have known that plumbing overflows were imminent at the property based on the prior PVC re-routes and that the insured should have expected losses like this to occur with the remaining cast iron pipe lines at the house. They also argued that the reason why the loss was not timely reported, like all of the other losses, was because the billboard advertisement was the impetus to the lawsuit, not an accidental loss on a date the insured recanted on the stand. The jury was out for just over an hour and came back with a complete defense verdict, and a proposal for settlement was filed more than two (2) years before trial, which should allow for recovery of defense fees and costs.



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