Insurance won’t cover St. Paul Church structural problems found during storm repair: Supreme Court ruling – Duluth News Tribune

ST. PAUL β€” An insurance company is not obligated to cover repair costs from pre-existing structural damage to a St. Paul church discovered during repairs from a storm in 2017, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled.

The 25-page opinion that ruled 4-3 in favor of State Farm dates back to the morning hours of June 11, 2017, when a line of severe thunderstorms swept across the southern half of Minnesota, bringing strong winds and large hail.

Storm reports from the National Weather Service indicate hail the size of golf balls fell across much of the Twin Cities as subway winds blew at 70 mph or stronger, snapping trees 15 to 12 inches in diameter.


A time-lapse of a large storm system that swept through the southern half of Minnesota on June 11, 2017, causing damage to structures and toppling trees up to 12 inches in diameter.

Contributed / National Weather Service

Structures were also not immune to the impact of the storm.

St. Matthews Church of God and Christ, about 2 miles southwest of the Minnesota State Capitol, sustained more than $100,000 in damage, all of which was paid for by State Farm.

During the repair process, workers discovered cracks in the building’s masonry behind the damaged drywall, and the city determined that the structure was non-compliant.

β€œSt. Matthews then requested that State Farm pay the costs of putting the masonry in order. In response, State Farm hired a consultant to assess the damaged masonry and determine the cause of the damage,” the Supreme Court’s opinion reads. “The consultant concluded that the ‘cracked and non-plumb condition… was a long-term condition unrelated to the storm.'”

Even before State Farm sent a letter to the church refusing to cover the damage to the masonry, St. Matthews filed a lawsuit, in which a district court ordered State Farm to appraise the damage, which was later worth only $80,000 . The assessment showed that the damage was not the result of the storm.

After the state court ruled in favor of State Farm and the insurance company must pay only the church for damages incurred as a direct result of the June 11, 2017 storm, St. Matthews appealed the case.

After an appeals court upheld the lower court’s ruling, a second appeal was filed and the Minnesota Supreme Court granted a review of the petition, ultimately upholding the decisions of the lower courts.

Justice Paul Thissen.jpeg

Justice Paul Thissen

The opinion, written by Judge Paul Thissen, found that the insurer is not responsible for paying for repairs because the damage to the masonry predates the storm and no evidence was provided that the church was covered by State Farm on when the structural damage occurred. cost, because the “damaged part of the property” was strictly the drywall. Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea and Justices Barry Anderson and Gordon Moore joined Thissen in the majority opinion.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Natalie Hudson refuted Thissen and agreed with St. Matthews’ argument that “a wall is a wall” and that the insurer’s obligation to repair “the damaged portion of the property” also includes the masonry behind would include the wall.

While Hudson wrote that the majority opinion regarding “the damaged part of the property” is a reasonable interpretation of the law, she argued that it should not be taken as the only interpretation. Justices Margaret Chutich and Anne McKeig agreed with Hudson’s dissent.

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