Question: The Ewells bought a home in Seaford Delaware They planned

The Ewells bought a home in Seaford, Delaware. They planned to renovate it and reside in it later. The Ewells insured the house with an insurance company, Lloyd's of London. Shortly after purchasing the house, the Ewells notified the insurance company that it intended to renovate the house. The insurance company thereupon issued a Special Use Form Policy that contained a single-page "Course of Construction/ Renovation Endorsement." The Fire Provision of the Endorsement stated: In the event of any construction or renovation work at the premises described in the Declarations the following conditions shall apply: You must ensure that visible and accessible fire extinguishers be placed on each level of the dwelling. Failure to comply with this provision will render this insurance null and void.
The Ewells did not place any fire extinguishers in the house. The work on the house proceeded with the removal of plaster and gutting of the kitchen and another room. In the early morning hours of January 20, 2009, the house and its contents were destroyed by fire. At the time of the fire, the Ewells were sleeping in a shed that they had built in the back yard rather than in the house. They were awakened by the arrival of fire trucks. The Ewells informed the insurance company of the fire, and it assigned an adjuster to investigate the loss. The insurance company ultimately denied the claim because the Ewells had not complied with the condition requiring them to place fire extinguishers on each floor of the house, as required by the Endorsement. The Ewells sued the insurance company for breach of contract. They argued that the fire extinguisher provision was meaningless because no one was in the house at the time of the fire, so no one could have used a fire extinguisher if there had been one present. They also argue that the condition was not triggered because the work that they were in the process of doing was demolition and they had not yet begun renovation. Will they win?

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  • CreatedJuly 16, 2014
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