Does commercial property insurance cover preventive snow removal? No, says Massachusetts Superior Court.

If your company does business in Massachusetts, you should double check your commercial property insurance policy in advance of next winter’s snowfall. According to a recent decision by the Mass. Superior Court, rooftop snow removal is NOT covered by commercial property insurance, and such policies typically apply only to damage or loss – not preventive maintenance costs such as rooftop plowing.

You can read Mass Lawyer Weekly’s excellent summary of the case, Roche Brothers Supermarkets, LLC v. Continental Casualty Company, by clicking here (subscription required).

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In the case, Judge Mitchell A. Kaplan considered the question of whether or not the commercial property insurance policy held by the Roche Brothers Supermarkets chain covered $800,000 that Roche Brothers spent clearing snow from the roofs of its various locations during the winter of 2015.

Roche Brothers claimed that it should be reimbursed by its insurance company, Continental Casualty Company, for the $800K cost it incurred for roof-top snow removal for its corporate buildings. In support of this claim, Roche Brothers pointed to language in its commercial policy insuring against “risks of direct physical loss of or damage to property.” Roche Brothers believed that this language extended to expenses incurred to prevent the risk that its property would be lost or damaged.

Judge Kaplan disagreed with the Roche Brothers interpretation, ruling that there is no coverage under the policy for such preventive efforts to protect against property damage.

This one could very well end up in the Mass. state court of appeals. Either way, commercial policy holders should be aware of this significant issue – snow season is always on the horizon!


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