CORBAN v. USAA – THE 1500 DAY GREEK TRAGEDY
Pardon the obvious patronage, but it’s fitting that Slabbed pay homage to the dedicated lawyers and astute circuit judge who were involved in Corban’s journey to the Mississippi Supreme Court. FOR THE PLAINTIFF: Judy Guice; Clyde Gunn; Richard Phillips; Christopher Van Cleave; Neil Harris; William Corban Gunn. THE CIRCUIT COURT OF HARRISON COUNTY: Honorable Lisa Dodson.
Yesterday, October 8, 2009 – exactly one thousand five hundred (1,500) days after Katrina – the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Harrison County Circuit Court erred in applying the Fifth Circuit’s interpretation of an ACC clause. First, when I say “erred,” that doesn’t mean the Judge botched it. She didn’t. As a matter of fact this particular Judge, Lisa Dodson, did exactly what a judge is supposed to do in this situation – defer. Asked to rule on competing summary judgment motions, Judge Dodson was forced to chose between the devil – in this case 5th Circuit Judge Edith Jones – and the deep blue sea – our own Supreme Court. She did the right thing, though it meant walking with the devil a while. More on “Dodson’s dilemma” below.
First, let’s de-bone Corban. The decision says the ACC clause cannot be used to defeat a wind loss, unless the insurer, by a preponderance of the evidence, first proves that wind and water acted indivisibly, and “contemporaneously converged” in causing the loss. Second, the Court trashed the “in any sequence” language in the ACC, finding it “ambiguous.” So, post Corban, “Mississippi Insurance Law for Dummies” might read something like this: “in Mississippi, the ISO-type ACC clause does not apply to all-risk policy losses, and can’t be legitimately invoked, except in one rare instance: when the loss was caused by the indivisible forces of wind and water, and the insurer can prove it.” In a word, Corban says “you get the loss you bought.” But, as astute Bam Bam readers will see, there’s still a problem.
The heart and soul of Corban is on page 22 of the opinion: “The ACC clause applies only if and when covered and excluded perils contemporaneously converge, operating in conjunction, to cause damage resulting in loss to the insured property.” See the problem yet? Let me re-write the quoted part putting “wind” and “water” where they belong:
“The ACC clause applies only if and when [wind] and [water] perils contemporaneously converge, operating in conjunction, to cause damage resulting in loss to the insured property.” Continue reading “Corban v. USAA”