Clasing v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company

771 N.W.2d 652 (2009)

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Clasing v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company

Iowa Court of Appeals
771 N.W.2d 652 (2009)

Facts

Jay and Deanna Clasing (plaintiffs) ran a hog-confinement operation. The business’s office was under repairs from a previous fire when an ice storm caused a power outage. Due to the repairs, the alarm system for the operation’s four swine barns was not functioning. In one of the barns, the ice storm caused a malfunction preventing proper ventilation, and a large number of hogs died without the alarm being sounded. The Clasings filed a claim with their insurer, State Farm Fire & Casualty Company (State Farm) (defendant). State Farm denied the claim, stating that an exclusion to the policy for loss of livestock by suffocation applied. Particularly, Jay Clasing answered “Yes” to State Farm’s question “So there’s really no questions as to the hogs suffocated?” in a recorded statement. The Clasings sued State Farm for breach of contract and claimed that the hogs did not suffocate, but rather died because inadequate ventilation into the building occurred due to the office fire, an insured occurrence. In support thereof, the Clasings filed an affidavit of a veterinarian who opined that the hogs likely died from being overheated. State Farm filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion, finding that a legal cause of the hogs’ deaths was the ice storm, but the deaths were directly and immediately caused by suffocation, which precluded coverage per the exclusion. The Clasings appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Sackett, C.J.)

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