Heller v. Fire Ins. Exch

In Heller v. Fire Ins. Exch., 800 P.2d 1006 (Colo. 1990), the homeowners discovered that water from spring runoffs of melted snow had caused extensive damage to their property because the regular path of the water had been diverted onto their property by three parallel trenches, "fifteen to twenty feet long, three feet wide, six inches deep, and lined with plastic sheets, rocks and tree limbs." The trenches had been constructed behind the homeowners' property by an "unknown person, or persons," and the homeowners' property had never been affected before by spring runoffs during the homeowners' ten-year occupancy. Id. The court concluded the surface water exclusion did not preclude coverage: "Here, the water originated from natural runoff of melted snow, but was diverted into man-made trenches that were fifteen to twenty feet long and six inches deep. The trenches diverted the regular path of the melted snow over a natural ridge. These trenches were "defined channels" that diverted the regular flow of the water, preventing "percolation, evaporation, or natural drainage." In examining the characteristics of the water that damaged the Hellers' property, we conclude that the runoff lost its character as surface water when it was diverted by the trenches and therefore was not within the surface water exclusion contained in the Hellers' policy." Id. at 1009.