REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2013-CA-002165-MR
ROCKCASTLE CIRCUIT COURT NO. ll-CI-00329
COUNSELLOR APPELLANTS: Robert R. Baker RANKIN 8b BAKER, PLLC.
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Don Arlie Pisacano Elizabeth C. Wood
ford MILLER, GRIFFIN & MARKS, P.S.C.
COUNSEL FOR AMICUS CURIAE AMERICAN INSURANCE ASSOCIATION and
INSURANCE INSTITUTE OF KENTUCKY: Michael Shea Maloney Stephen
Conner Keller SCHILLER BARNES MALONEY PLLC.
OPINION OF THE COURT BY JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM
2004, Hiram Campbell purchased a homeowner's insurance
policy from the Appellee, Kentucky Growers Insurance Company
("Insurer"). The policy provided coverage for
Hiram's home located in Brodhead, Kentucky. The policy
was self-renewing and continued in effect after Hiram died in
late 2005. Following Hiram's death, his daughter,
Appellant Wanda Thiele ("Thiele"), moved into
Hiram's residence. She was also the executrix of
January 2011, Thiele moved the refrigerator and discovered
termite infestation. Additional termite damage was discovered
throughout the home, including damage to wall paneling and
flooring. Upon discovering the damage, Thiele contacted
Insurer to make a claim under the homeowner's policy
provision covering collapse. That provision provides:
8. Collapse - "We" pay for direct physical loss . .
. involving the collapse of a building or part of a building
caused by only the following:
(b) hidden insect or vermin decay;
does not mean settling, cracking, bulging, or expanding.
Because no collapse had occurred, Insurer denied Thiele's
claim. As a result, Thiele filed a declaration of rights
claim in Rockcastle Circuit Court. Insurer answered and filed
a motion for a declaratory judgment in its favor. The trial
court conducted a hearing and subsequently issued a judgment
in Thiele's favor. On appeal, a unanimous Court of
Appeals' panel reversed the trial court. Having reviewed
the record and the law, we affirm the Court of Appeals'
decision and remand this case to the trial court for further
is well settled that the proper interpretation of insurance
contracts generally is a matter of law to be decided by a
court; and, thus, an appellate court uses a de novo, not a
deferential, standard of review." Cincinnati Ins.
Co. v. Motorists Mutlns., 306 S.W.3d 69, 73
(Ky. 2010). The controlling case here is Niagara Fire
Ins. Co. v. Curtsinger, 361 S.W.2d 762, 763 (Ky. 1962).
Curtsinger defined collapse as follows:
The word 'collapse' in connection with a building or
other structure' has a well-understood common meaning.
Webster's Collegiate dictionary defines the word as,
'(1) To break down or go to pieces suddenly, especially
by falling in of sides; to cave in.'
It seems to us that the mere subsidence of the floor of the
porch, which pulled it and the roof away from the building a
few inches, cannot be regarded as the collapse of any part of
the building, and that the ...