October 26, 2021

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Do Insurers In Louisiana Have To Match Damaged Property?

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Whether damaged property can be “matched” during a repair is a major property insurance adjustment issue. There is one Louisiana appellate case discussing the matching issue,1 and it found for the policyholder. A prior post, Provide the Right Proof so Your Insurer Will Pay Costs to Repair or Replace to Match Texture, Color, and Likeness, should be studied because the result may depend upon the policyholder’s presentation of loss.

I made two suggestions which should still be followed when adjusting matching issues:

Read the policy to see if it has restrictions on matching because we are seeing more policies that exclude payment for costs associated with matching damaged portions of real or personal property. Coverage may be provided for “pairs” or “sets.” Again, the policy is the first place to start any analysis of coverage.

Get as much proof from experts indicating that to fix the “damaged” property and not be worse off than before, you have to match the property. And, you must show that it is impossible to somehow “patch” the damaged area so it will match. Get experts to back you on the claim and many insurance adjusters will pay.

The Louisiana appellate court noted that the policyholder presented an expert opinion that the water damaged carpeting would not match if not replaced:

[P]laintiffs’ interior decorator…testified that, since the color and pattern of the carpeting originally used in plaintiffs’ house had been discontinued, it was impossible to replace the damaged carpeting without replacing all of the carpeting in the bedroom wing of the house. Even if the same color and texture of carpeting could be obtained, to replace only the damaged portions of the carpet, would result in unsightly seams at the juncture point, according to Mr. McKay, and contrast between the old and the new carpeting would be readily apparent and would have an adverse effect on the overall market value of the house. Mr. McKay likened the replacement of the damaged carpet to the effect of replacing a sleeve in a suit with other than the same material with which the whole suit had been tailored originally. He also testified that it was the general practice in Baton Rouge in houses of the type of plaintiffs to use one kind of carpeting and one color in all of the bedrooms, and that to do otherwise would depreciate the value of the house. Mr. McKay testified further that he had been consulted by 50— 100 homeowners in Baton Rouge who had sustained water damage to their carpeting, and that he always recommended replacement of the carpet in the entire bedroom wing, if the damage had been in any part of that area.

The policyholder also provided expert testimony that without matching the carpeting, the value to the home would be diminished:

W. W. Wilkinson, a qualified realtor, also testified that if carpeting of the same texture and color is not used in the entire bedroom wing of houses such as the Holloways’ house, it diminishes the value of the house by $1,000 to $2,000.

The Louisiana court also quoted from the Louisiana Valued Policy statute as public policy supporting the matching of the carpeting:

Under any fire insurance policy, which may be written hereafter… on any inanimate property, immovable by nature or destination, situated within the State of Louisiana, the insurer shall pay to the insured, in case of partial damage without criminal fault on the part of the insured or the insured’s assigns, such amount, not exceeding the amount for which the property is insured, at the time of such partial damage, in the policy of such insurer, As will permit the insured to restore the damaged property to its original condition . . ..

The Louisiana policyholders won. While the case is important precedent, I would suggest that facts made in the loss presentation and the applicable policy language are going to be the most significant factors which will determine if future matching is owed in Louisiana.

Thought For The Day

Beware, so long as you live, of judging men by their outward appearance.
—Jean de La Fontaine
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1 Holloway v. Liberty Mutual Fire Ins. Co., 290 So.2d 791 (La. App. 1974).

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