Did termites cause collapse?
In 2004, Hiram Campbell purchased a homeowners policy for his house from KentuckyGrowers Insurance Company. The policy was self-renewing and continued in effect after Campbell died in late 2005. After Campbell’s death, his daughter, Wanda Thiele, moved into the residence.
In January 2011, Thiele moved the refrigerator and discovered termite infestation. Additional termite damage was discovered throughout the house, including damage to wall paneling and flooring. Thiele made a claim under the policy provision that covered collapse.
That provision stated:
- Collapse—“We” pay for direct physical loss … involving the collapse of a building or part of a building caused by only the following:
(b) hidden insect or vermin decay;
Collapse does not mean settling, cracking, bulging, or expanding.
Stating that no collapse had occurred, Kentucky Growers denied the claim. Thiele filed a declaration of rights claim. The insurer filed a motion for a declaratory judgment in its favor. After a hearing, the court rendered judgment in Thiele’s favor. On appeal, a unanimous panel reversed the trial court. Thiele appealed this judgment.
On appeal, the Supreme Court of Kentucky noted that, by the generally accepted definition of the word “collapse,” it was clear that the damage caused by the termites could not be considered a collapse, and that the trial court should have ruled so as a matter of law. The decision of the appellate court was affirmed and the case remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.
Thiele vs. Kentucky Growers Insurance Company-Supreme Court of Kentucky-2015-SC-000158-DG-June 15, 2017.