In 1963, congregants noticed a strange odor in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church in Littleton, Colo. Some suspected a gas leak or maybe spilled stationary ink. Others thought the smell came from a decaying rodent.

Executive Summary

Rulings involving bacteria, ammonia and cat urine give plaintiffs hope with COVID-19 claims. But for each court case that plaintiff attorneys site to support a broad interpretation of "physical loss or damage," defense attorneys can point to another that cautions against an overbroad interpretation. Claims Journal Editor Jim Sams provides a rundown of some relevant cases.

Eventually, the Littleton Fire Department investigated and ordered the church to be evacuated because gasoline had permeated the ground underneath. A leaking tank from a gasoline station across the street was suspected.

Western Fire Insurance Co. denied the church’s claim under an “all-risk” property insurance policy, arguing that there had been no direct physical loss. A jury, however, found that the insurer must reimburse the church $21,404.83 for the cost of cleaning up the spill.

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