Legal Memorandum: Coverage for Temporary Roof

Issue: Is a temporary covering a ‘roof,’ for purposes of a Florida insurance policy?

Area of Law: Insurance Law
Keywords: Coverage; Temporary covering a "roof"; Covered cause of loss
Jurisdiction: Federal, Florida
Cited Cases: 654 So. 2d 276; 245 P.2d 92; 206 Okla. 570; 707 A.2d 1383; 91 F.3d 129; 15 Cal. App. 4th 1205; 986 F.2d 1379; 19 Cal. Rptr. 2d 591; 359 So. 2d 52
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 08/01/2000

If an insurer asserts that because the roof was made of an impermanent material, it was a “non-roof” or “unroof” or no roof at all; it calls into question of the definition of the term “roof.”  One dictionary defines the word “roof” as “[t]he outside top covering of a building.” Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language ___ (2d ed. 1980).  A different Webster’s dictionary defines “roof” in a similar manner, as “[t]he cover of any building, including the roofing . .  .and all the materials and construction necessary to carry and maintain the same upon the walls or other uprights.”  Webster’s New International Dictionary, Unabridged ____ (2d ed. 1934).  Finally, a third dictionary defines roof as “the external upper covering of a house or other building” or “something resembling this.”  The Random House Dictionary 766 (1st ed. 1989).

Under federal law, and Florida law, when an ambiguity exists in an insurance policy, the court must construe the provisions in the light most favorable to the insured and against the drafter, or insurer.  Continental Cas. Co. v. Wendt, 205 F.3d 1258, 1261 (11th Cir. 2000); Florida Power & Light Co. v. Penn Am. Ins. Co., 654 So. 2d 276, 277-78 (Fla. 4th Dist. Ct. App. 1995).  By definition, an insurance contract is “ambiguous if it is susceptible to two or more reasonable interpretations that can fairly be made.”  Continental, 205 F.3d at 1261 (citing Dahl-Eimers v. Mutual of Omaha Life Ins. Co.,