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Labate v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co – Case Brief Summary (New York)

In Labate v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co. (19 AD3d 652, 799 N.Y.S.2d 71 [2d Dept 2005]), the insureds sought a declaration that their property loss was covered under a provision covering any occurrence that results, during the policy period, in property damage, whereas the insurer argued that the occurrence at issue was not covered because some of the damage was sustained before the policy period had commenced.

The Court found that as it was alleged that some of the damage was sustained during the policy period, "it is immaterial whether the causative event happened during or before the policy period."

Rather, the Court held that because the governing provision contained no basis for finding that the timing of the cause of the damage was relevant, coverage was based "exclusively" on the fact that the specified property damage was sustained during the policy period. (Id. at 653-654.)

In Labate v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., the defendant disclaimed coverage of a property damage lawsuit, arguing that the damage to the adjoining building occurred during the construction of its insured's new house, and thus predated the effective date of the homeowner's policy in question by several years.

Citing the same definition of "occurrence" that is found in the New York Marine policy, the Second Department ruled:

"The language of the occurrence clause herein ascribes no temporal relevance to the causative event preceding the covered property damage, but rather premises coverage exclusively upon the sustaining of specified property damage during the policy period". The complaint in the underlying action . . . contains allegations of property damage sustained, in part, during the policy period. It is immaterial whether the causative event happened during or before the policy period." (19 AD3d at 653-54.)