Ebert v. Pacific National Fire Insurance Company
Louisiana Court of Appeal
40 So. 2d 40 (1949)
Joseph Ebert (plaintiff) owned a small, framed house, known as a camp, in the marshlands of Louisiana. Ebert’s home was located about 10 feet above the marsh, on five-foot pilings driven into a five-foot dirt hill. Lake Catherine was approximately 1,200 feet to the south of Ebert’s property, and the highway was approximately 165 feet to the north of Ebert’s property. Ebert had a windstorm insurance policy through Pacific National Fire Insurance Company (PNFIC) (defendant), which covered property loss and damage directly caused by wind; the policy specifically excluded coverage for damage caused by tidal waves, floods, and high water. In 1947, a severe hurricane struck Louisiana, with 98-mile-per-hour winds directly impacting the marshland where Ebert’s camp was located. Ebert’s camp was blown off its foundations and fell into the floodwaters, causing significant damage. Ebert filed a claim under his PNFIC windstorm policy. PNFIC denied the claim, stating that it did not cover flood damage. Ebert sued PNFIC to enforce coverage. At trial, Ebert’s witness, a local who was in the marsh at the time of the hurricane, testified that he saw Ebert’s camp blown off its foundations before floodwaters reached the camp’s foundation. Ebert’s witness further testified that his own camp was blown down by the wind before floodwaters reached it and that he was able to see Ebert’s camp blow over because he took refuge under some highway pilings overlooking Ebert’s camp. PNFIC’s local witness testified that, at the same time Ebert’s witness watched Ebert’s camp get blown off its foundation, the floodwaters were no higher than four-and-a-half feet, far lower than the start of Ebert’s foundation 10 feet above the marsh. There was no evidence presented that a tidal wave ever struck the marshland. Regardless, the trial court dismissed Ebert’s claim. Ebert appealed to the Louisiana Court of Appeal. PNFIC challenged, arguing that, even if Ebert’s camp were blown over by the wind, the damage to Ebert’s camp would not have occurred but for the floodwaters reaching Ebert’s property before the camp was blown over.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Regan, J.)
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