Murray v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company

In Murray v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, 203 W. Va. 477, 509 S.E.2d 1 (1998), the Court examined the question of whether an insurance policy similar to the one in question in the present action covered a landslide. In Murray, the Court concluded that the policy was ambiguous and determined that the exclusion should be construed by applying the construction principals of ejusdem generis and noscitur a sociis. The Court stated: "Under the doctrine of ejusdem generis, "where general words are used in a contract after specific terms, the general words will be limited in their meaning or restricted to things of like kind and nature with those specified." Syllabus Point 4, Jones v. Island Creek Coal Co., 79 W. Va. 532, 91 S.E. 391 (1917). The phrase noscitur a sociis literally means "it is known from its associates," and the doctrine implies that the meaning of a general word is or may be known from the meaning of accompanying specific words. See Syllabus Point 4, Wolfe v. Forbes, 159 W. Va. 34, 217 S.E.2d 899 (1975). The doctrines are similar in nature, and their application holds that in an ambiguous phrase mixing general words with specific words, the general words are not construed broadly but are restricted to a sense analogous to the specific words." (203 W. Va. at 485, 509 S.E.2d at 9.)