What Does Indemnity Mean within the Context of Actual Cash Value? | Property Insurance Coverage Law Blog


What does it imply once we say {that a} property insurance coverage coverage is a contract of indemnity? This phrase was typically talked about when older circumstances analyzed the time period “actual cash value.” The idea appears to get misplaced with the advertising of alternative value insurance policies. My impression is that we’ve allowed “actual cash value” to be valued much less right now as a result of fashionable insurance coverage practitioners don’t perceive the time period indemnity.

I quoted a Tennessee Supreme Court case fighting the idea of indemnity when contemplating the that means of “actual cash value” in yesterday’s weblog, Should Depreciation Be Taken on Partial Losses When Determining Actual Cash Value? It said this:

A hearth insurance coverage contract is a contract of indemnity. Its function is to reimburse the insured; to revive him as practically as doable to the place he was in earlier than the loss.1

The lingering query is: How does one get positioned in practically as doable the identical place earlier than the loss as after? Further, shouldn’t the requirement be {that a} policyholder just isn’t left in a worse place after the loss than earlier than? This crucial idea of a policyholder not being left in a worse place is why various states traditionally wouldn’t enable depreciation to be taken in a coverage that solely paid on “actual cash value,” and the events contemplated a restore of a partial loss.   

Many fashionable insurance coverage educators miss this whole conceptual historical past when learning the phrases. An instance is a course provided by the Academy of Insurance, Actual Cash Value: How to Define an Undefined Term. The presenter, Crystal Uebelher, is extraordinarily shiny however solely graduated from regulation faculty in 2007 and labored for an insurance coverage protection agency. Her presentation centered on property insurance coverage circumstances discussing case regulation about precise money worth during the last 20 years. The older circumstances and treatises discussing indemnity in an insurance coverage age the place solely precise money worth insurance policies have been offered have been by no means analyzed. The above idea that indemnity mustn’t enable the policyholder to be in a worse place with an precise money cost was not taught.      

A exceptional dialogue of this was in Indiana. A decrease court docket appellate case determined in 1979,2 which was later vacated, famous:

A hearth insurance coverage coverage is a contract of indemnity whereby the insurer, in trade for a cash consideration (premium), undertakes to make the insured complete for the lack of insured property brought on by fireplace. First National Bank v. Boston Insurance Co. (1958), 17 Ill.App.second 159, 149 N.E.second 420; Butler v. Aetna Ins. Co. (1934), 64 N.D. 764, 256 N.W. 214. It has additionally been said that the ‘contract of the insurer is not that, if the property is burned, he will pay its market value; but that he will indemnify the assured, that is, save him harmless, or put him in as good a condition, so far as practicable, as he would have been in if no fire had occurred.’ Washington Mills Manuf. Co. v. Weymouth Ins. Co. (1883), 135 Mass. 503, 506-507.

Since it’s nicely settled that the idea of indemnity underlies each fireplace insurance coverage contract, it’s clear the indemnity pervasively impacts the interpretation and operation of loss payable clauses in such contracts. While Indiana courts haven’t had event to go on the that means of the loss payable clause right here disputed, courts in different jurisdictions have thought of the that means of the phrase ‘actual cash value’ within the context of comparable contracts and factual settings.

Note how outdated the circumstances have been within the dialogue. Those older insurance policies have been offered when alternative value insurance policies weren’t accessible, and even promoting them was unlawful in lots of states. The appellate court docket then famous circumstances the place depreciation was not allowed on this context of indemnity and precise money worth:

In Fedas v. Insurance Co. of State of Pennsylvania (1930), 300 Pa. 555, 151 A. 285, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania reviewed an motion on a fireplace insurance coverage coverage for the partial destruction of a dwelling and family items. The clause within the coverage was equivalent to that within the case at bar besides the measure of loss was ‘ ‘(a)ctual cash value (ascertained with proper deductions for depreciation) . . . .’ ‘ Notwithstanding the point out of depreciation within the coverage, the court docket held that precise money worth means what it will value to exchange a constructing or a chattel on the date of the hearth. The court docket reasoned that within the case of a partial loss the willpower of precise money worth should take into account the use and performance of the property and its integral place in a whole construction. Since the coverage contemplates a restoration ample to restore or exchange the property as practically as doable to the situation as of the date of the hearth, the cost of a lesser quantity would defeat the important indemnifying function of the coverage. See, e. g.: Farber v. Perkiomen Mut. Ins. Co. (1952), 370 Pa. 480, 88 A.second 776; Metz v. Travelers Fire Ins. Co. (1946), 355 Pa. 342, 49 A.second 711.

In Glens Falls Ins. Co. v. Gulf Breeze Cottages (1949), Fla., 38 So.second 828, the Florida Supreme Court thought of the measure of indemnity for a loss to a ten-year-old roof brought on by hailstorm and hurricane. The court docket stated precise money worth meant the amount of cash required to take advantage of economical repairs in order to put the roof as practically as doable in the identical situation present earlier than the loss, with out permitting depreciation for supplies used. See additionally: Sperling v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (1973), Fla., 281 So.second 297, (fireplace loss).

This case was vacated when the difficulty went to the Indiana Supreme Court.3 The Indiana Supreme Court allowed a measure to be thought of which allowed for depreciation to be a consideration within the context of adopting the broad proof rule:

The insurance coverage business gives two distinct forms of casualty safety for dwellings. One insures to the extent of the ‘actual cash value,’ i.e., the diminution in worth; and the opposite insures to the extent of ‘the full cost of repair or replacement without deduction for depreciation,’ i.e., with out regard as to whether or not the restoration ends in an enhanced worth to the premises. This is a very simplified clarification however ample for functions of resolving this case. Under some circumstances the quantity payable following a loss could be the similar beneath both insuring provision, however the danger assumed by the insurer and consequently the premiums charged are fairly totally different.

The precise money worth coverage is a pure indemnity contract. Its function is to make the insured complete however by no means to profit him as a result of a fireplace occurred. Appleman on Insurance second…; Brand Distributors Inc. v. Insurance Co. of North America, (1976) 532 F.second 352 (4th Cir.). Replacement value protection, alternatively, reimburses the insured for the total value of repairs, if he repairs or rebuilds the constructing, even when that ends in placing the insured in a greater place than he was earlier than the loss.

If a fireplace happens in a brand new constructing, the precise money worth usually is equal to the price of repairs for the reason that full value of restore merely restores what was there. It indemnifies however does no extra. If an outdated constructing burns to the bottom, the precise worth is often established by reference to its truthful market worth much less the worth of the land on which the constructing sits. If an outdated constructing has solely very minor fireplace injury, repairs in all probability don’t end in a considerable betterment, and depreciation is normally ignored in adjusting the loss. However when the constructing is outdated or obsolescent and is critically broken however not destroyed, the precise money worth is extra prone to be disputed. The courts uniformly maintain, as did the Court of Appeals, that precise money worth insurance coverage is strictly a contract of indemnity. The insured must be made complete however not be put in a greater place than he was in earlier than the hearth.

This Indiana Supreme Court case, which adopted the Broad Evidence Rule permitting the trier of truth to think about using a “replacement cost minus depreciation,” is price studying and can be analyzed in larger element tomorrow. Note that it said: “Under some circumstances the amount payable following a loss may be the same under either insuring provision” when contemplating variations between precise money worth and alternative value.  

The backside line on this lesson is that indemnity is a time period typically missed or not correctly mentioned in right now’s evaluation of precise money worth. As a consequence, lots of right now’s circumstances construing “actual cash value” typically end in decreasing how a lot must be paid when solely “actual cash value” is owed. Indeed, even insurance coverage regulators, not totally appreciating how indemnity was traditionally an essential a part of precise money worth willpower, have wrongfully allowed insurers to re-write what precise money worth means into coverage definitions.

I additionally recommend that readers of this weblog take into account changing into a member of the Academy of Insurance. The classes are wonderful, and the value is true.      

Thought For The Day    

The farther backward you may look, the farther ahead you’re prone to see.

—Winston S. Churchill

1 Braddock v. Memphis Fire Ins. Corp., 493 S.W.second 453 (Tenn. 1973).

2 Travelers Indem. Co. v. Armstrong, 384 N.E.second 607 (Ind. App. 1979).

3 Travelers Indem. Co. v. Armstrong, 442 N.E.second 349 (Ind. 1982).


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