Death resulting from huddling and piling must be defined in the policy in order to exclude coverage

16. October 2008 0

Court finds for insured where definition of industry-specific terms found in exclusion clause not defined in policy.

Fovant Farms Ltd. v. West Elgin Mutual Insurance C., [2008] O.J. No. 3309, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, K.J. Brooks Deputy J., July 16, 2008

The insured, Fovant Farms Ltd., brought an action against West Elgin Mutual Insurance Co. and its agent, the “Insurer”, for a claim in breach of contract and negligence. The insured raised pigs and cows.

On February 16, 2006, the insured made a claim to the Insurer after a pig had nosed one of the gates in the new sorting system away from the wall, closing the gate, and preventing the pigs from circulating in the barn.  By the time this was discovered, over 70 pigs had died.  The Insurer investigated the claim and concluded that the pigs had died as a result of “piling”, which was not covered by the policy.  In a letter dated April 5, 2006, the Insurer stated that the pigs had died as a result of entrapment, but the claim was denied as it fell under an exclusion for entrapment coverage due to “huddling and piling”.

Huddling and piling are terms specific to the livestock industry. However, there was no definition of huddling or piling in the policy. There was no evidence before the court as to what was understood by the Insurer when it specifically excluded loss of pigs due to death from huddling and piling.

The evidence was clear that the pigs had died when they were trapped in one area of the barn due to their inability to move as a result of a closed gate. The onus of proof was on the Insured to show that the Insurer failed to meet its obligations under the policy. The court found that the insured had proved that there was a loss of pigs that were entrapped when a gate was closed resulting in their death. The Insurer had acknowledged that the pigs had died from entrapment, but asserted that the loss was not covered due to a specific exclusion. The court found that the Insurer had not provided sufficient evidence to show that the pigs had died as a result of huddling and piling as outlined in the exclusion. As a result, the court found for the Insured on its claim under the contract.

This case was originally summarized by Cameron B. Elder and originally edited by David W. Pilley.

To stay current with the new case law and emerging legal issues in this area, subscribe here.