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Smith v. Shelby Insurance Company of Shelby Insurance Group – Case Brief Summary (Tennessee)

In Smith v. Shelby Insurance Company of Shelby Insurance Group, 936 S.W.2d 261 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1996), the Tennessee court also addressed similar facts where an unknown person or persons entered a building and "ripped out electrical wiring, plumbing pipes, and condenser coils in the air conditioning system, in order to extract copper wiring and tubing." 936 S.W.2d at 262.

The interior of the building, including the air conditioning system, suffered extensive damage. Id. The court concluded that the damage was "caused by or resulting from theft" and did not result from vandalism. Id. at 265.

In doing so, the court emphasized that the policy's definition of "vandalism" contemplated "willful and malicious damage," and that "every knowledgeable witness including Smith himself testified that the apparent motivation for the entry . . . was for the stealing of copper wiring and tubing," not for maliciously inflicting property damage. Id. at 265-66.

The court found the policy language "clear and unambiguous" and held that the damage was excluded by the theft provision. Id. at 266.