In 2008, the undiscovered corpse of an elderly woman living in a second story Jupiter, Fla. apartment decomposed so badly that the woman’s corpse exploded. The woman lived alone with her two dogs, and her body lay in the apartment for two weeks before the terrible odor started seeping into the adjacent apartment units, causing neighbors to complain. The “explosion” of the body caused internal bodily fluids to leak down into a first-floor apartment. This was the home of Judy Rodrigo, and Rodrigo said her property was damaged from the fluids and deathly stench. Apparently Rodrigo cleaned what she could but eventually had to have the apartment gutted. But even then the foul stench lingered.
Rodrigo claimed that she had to spend her own money in order to clean her unit and sought complete reimbursement through her State Farm personal property damage coverage. Rodrigo’s unsuccessful claim of the “bodily explosion” came about because her policy only covered damage to personal property in the event of a “named peril,” explosions being one of those perils.
After she sent invoices and lists of the damages to her insurance company, a State Farm-hired contractor inspected the unit and approved an appraisal award, but the insurance company wouldn’t accept liability for the damage of her personal property. However, Rodrigo rejected the settlement and insisted she is paid full coverage for the damage.
After a long six-year legal battle, a Palm Beach County court ruled last week that Rodrigo’s insurance policy did not, in fact, cover damage caused by “bodily explosions.” And however “unique” the case may be, the court sided with State Farm and told Rodrigo she must cover the costs on her own.
So what lesson can we learn from this? A decomposing body that combusts is not considered a legitimate enough explosion to be fully covered by Florida personal property damage coverage. Unfortunately, the claimant in this case walked away with nothing.
Although this was a unique, slightly off-the-wall case, it goes to show you that the Florida insurance and litigation systems are quite complicated. If you have an insurance claim or personal injury, it would behoove you to seek proper legal representation to find out the best options for your situation.
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