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Water from Melting Snow Is Surface Water
Description Appeals court held that damage to personal property caused by melting snow is excluded from coverage in homeowner insurance that excludes damage from surface water. Melting snow causes surface water, so such damage is not covered.
Topic Insurance
Key Words Homeowners' Coverage, Exclusion
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The Camerons had an "all-risk" homeowners' policy. It stated that it covered loss to personal property resulting from snow that causes damage. However, it also stated that it excluded loss from "flood, surface water ... whether or not driven by wind." A heavy snow storm caused water to overflow from the normal drainage away from the house, down some outside stairs to the basement, and then into the basement because a drain at the bottom of the stairs was blocked. The water in the basement damaged personal property. The insurer refused to pay because of the exclusion clause. The Camerons sued. The district court held for the insurer; the Camerons appealed.
Decision Affirmed. Genuine ambiguities in the insurance policy would be resolved in the Camerons' favor, but the exclusion clause denying coverage for losses attributable to surface water is clear enough. Melting snow causes surface water. The general rule is that water that collects on man-made structures is surface water. This is not damage caused by the weight of snow or by a winter freeze, which is the kind of loss anticipated by the policy.
Citation Cameron v. USAA Property and Casualty Insurance Co., 733 A.2d 965 (Ct. App., D.C., 1999)

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