Wells et al v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Insurance Co.

The Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court ruled that State Farm owed no coverage for water damage caused by burst pipes when the insured did not take reasonable efforts to maintain heat in the building. The evidence at trial showed that the owners of the building disconnected water service when the building’s heat pump was stolen, but reconnected water service during renovation without any effort to replace the heating pump. The Appellate Court stated that restarting the water in the middle of winter knowing the heating system was compromised triggered the policy’s exclusion that barred coverage for pipe bursts if the insured failed to do their best to maintain heat in the building. The court further clarified that while the owners did not have a duty to repair the heating system, they assumed the risk of a freeze-up event when they continued water service knowing the building’s heat was faulty.