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Dallas County v. Commercial Union Assurance Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
286 F.2d 388 (1961)



On July 7, 1957, the clock tower of the Dallas County Courthouse collapsed. Dallas County had insurance for loss to the courthouse caused by fire or lightning. Dallas County concluded that the collapse of the courthouse was due to a lightning strike because the collapse debris contained charcoal and charred timbers. Furthermore, witnesses reported that a bolt of lightning struck the courthouse on July 2, 1957. The insurers on the courthouse (defendants) contested Dallas County’s conclusion that lightning had caused the collapse. The insurers’ engineers concluded that structural weaknesses attributable to faulty design and construction had caused the collapse. At trial, the insurers sought to introduce evidence that the charcoal and char found in the debris came from an earlier fire. The insurers sought to introduce into evidence a newspaper article which reports that the courthouse tower had suffered a fire on June 9, 1901 when the courthouse was still under construction. The newspaper article was admitted, and a jury found for the insurers. Dallas County appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Wisdom, J.)

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