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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has decided that an insurance policy’s earth movement exclusion barred coverage for damage caused to a home by large boulders rolling down from a hillside above the home. The case is Sullivan v. Nationwide Affinity Ins. Co. of Am.2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 628 (10th Cir. Jan. 11, 2021).

The house of the Plaintiffs, Dustin Sullivan and Nana Naisbitt, sustained severe damage when several large boulders dislodged from a rocky outcropping and rolled down a steep hillside into their home and yard. One boulder stopped rolling in the yard, and a few others struck the house. Sullivan and Naisbitt filed a claim with their insurer, Nationwide, which hired an engineering firm and a geological firm to investigate the rock slide. The engineering firm’s report noted that some rocks dislodged from the upper part of the slope accidentally and were not influenced by meteorological conditions such as torrential rain or high winds. The geological firm’s report found that rockfall hazards existed at the property in question, and found that there was evidence of large boulders falling down the slope previously.

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