ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Monday, September 19, 2005

More on the Meaning of "Flood"

Adam F. Scales (Washington & Lee) has written an informative article on concerning the homeowners insurance litigation after Katrina.  He notes that "a homeowners insurance agreement is one of the most complicated contracts the average person will ever sign."  He explains:

This is partly due to the historical development of homeowners insurance -- which was stitched together in something like its present form just a few decades ago, from various strands of the law of insurance contracts, which developed over centuries.

Unsurprisingly, given the complexity of these contracts, individual policyholders do not bargain over the terms of their contracts; with rare exceptions, they have neither read their contracts, nor would understand them even if they did. Almost every word in a modern insurance policy has acquired meaning through a cycle of drafting, legal challenge, and redrafting. Indeed, these repeated cycles have often bestowed upon insurance terms not simply a single meaning, but multiple meanings.

The article posits that causation issues will be crucial in the litigation, and that courts will not adopt insurers' arguments for literal readings of the policies.

[Meredith R. Miller]

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