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Meow Mix: Herding 100 cats

Meow Mix: Herding 100 cats

August 27
07:20 2020

Meow Mix: Herding 100 cats

Sally Phillips, a landlord, brought an action against State Farm Fire and Casualty Company for breach of contract, alleging that her rental dwelling policy provided coverage for certain losses to her rental properties and that State Farm denied coverage for certain damages, including a permeating odor of cat waste caused by approximately 100 cats, under the domestic animal exclusion. State Farm moved for partial summary judgment as to the cat-related damages. The court granted the motion. Phillips appealed.

The operative complaint alleged a single claim for relief seeking recovery for two kinds of damage: “cat damages” and “non-cat damages.”

State Farm argued that it was entitled as a matter of law “to dismiss Plaintiffs’ claim for breach of contract for the cat-related damage to the rental house, and for an order declaring that State Farm is not obligated to provide coverage for the claims made by the Plaintiff * * * for cat-related damage due to the policy exclusion for domestic animals.”

Section I of the policy, titled “Losses Insured,” stated that “[w]e insure for accidental direct physical loss to the property described in Coverage A and B, except as provided in Section I – Losses Not Insured.” The “Losses Not Insured” section stated in part:

“1. We do not insure for loss to the property described in Coverage A and Coverage B either consisting of, or directly and immediately caused by, one or more of the following:

“* * * * *

“n. birds, vermin, rodents, insects or domestic animals. We do cover the breakage of glass or safety glazing material which is a part of a building, when caused by birds, vermin, rodents, insects or domestic animals.

“However, we do insure for any ensuing loss from items a. through n. unless the loss is itself a Loss Not Insured by this Section.”

According to the court, the central issue was the meaning of the phrase “directly and immediately.” State Farm responded that the plain meaning of the policy language excluded coverage for the cat-related damage in question. The court agreed. Damage caused by cats defecating and urinating on the insured property is direct and immediate and therefore was excluded under the policy.

The court concluded that the domestic animal exclusion was plain and unambiguous, and it rejected the argument that the cat damage was otherwise covered as ensuing damage. The trial court did not err in granting State Farm’s motion for summary judgment.

Phillips v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company—Court of Appeals of Oregon—February 26, 2020—A163831.

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