Wednesday, November 30, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Insurer Off the Hook for Next-Door Decomposition

(CN) - It was not an explosion, for insurance purposes, when a dead woman's bodily fluids leaked into a neighboring condominium unit, a Florida appeals court ruled.

In Palm Beach County, Judy Rodrigo suffered damage to her apartment when some time had passed before the decomposing body of her next-door neighbor was discovered.

State Farm Florida Insurance Co. paid for an inspection and appraisal but denied liability for Rodrigo's property damage, so she refused the payment and took State Farm to court.

Rodrigo disputed the appraisal and accused State Farm of breach of contract.

State Farm argued that a decomposing body next door was not a named peril covered by the policy.

Rodrigo countered that what happened to her neighbor's body qualified as an "explosion," producing an affidavit from a doctor who said that "the internal contents of her body explosively expanded and leaked."

But State Farm said Rodrigo had failed meet her obligations under the policy, including filing a sworn statement of loss within 60 days.

Judge John Kastrenakes agreed with State Farm, and the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach affirmed last week.

"While the owner argued that she provided the insurer with bills, estimates, invoices and other documents to prove her damages, she failed to file a sworn proof of loss," Judge Melanie May wrote for a three-judge panel.

State Farm is also right that the neighbor's body did not explode, the court found.

"The plain meaning of the term 'explosion' does not include a decomposing body's cells explosively expanding, causing leakage of bodily fluids," May wrote. "In short, although novel in her attempt to do so, the insured could not establish that the decomposing body was tantamount to an explosion."

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.