Water damage, while one of the leading causes of loss under a property policy, often results in some of the most complex claims due to the intersection of exclusions, sublimits, and complex wording within the policy. One particularly difficult issue is whether water damage caused by a storm surge is covered by the flood sublimit, or under the general policy or water limit. In New Jersey Transit Corp. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s (“NJTC v. Lloyd’s”), the New Jersey Appeals Court found that the “flood” sublimit of the policy should not apply as the cause of the loss was a “named windstorm” and not a “flood.”
In NJTC v Lloyd's the court was asked to determine whether a flood sublimit applied to losses sustained during Superstorm Sandy. The court found that although there was “flooding,” the water damage was more closely related to the “named windstorm”, and therefore, the $400 million policy limits should apply. The court focused its analysis on the definitions for “flood” and “named windstorm” and by applying the efficient proximate cause doctrine to determine which would apply.
When reviewing the definitions within the property policies, the court determined that although the loss would qualify under the definition of “flood,” the policy also contained a definition for “named windstorm” which “more specifically encompasses the wind driven water or storm surge associated with a ‘named windstorm’”1. In addition, the policy did not specifically state that “storm surge” associated with a “named windstorm” should be considered a “flood” event and fall under the “flood” sublimit.