Brown v. Mid-Century Insurance Co. (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 841

A water pipe corroded over several decades until water began to leak from two small holes and collect underneath the insureds’ house. The leak continued unnoticed, eventually collecting enough water to cause noticeable mold and condensation to appear within the house’s interior. A month later, the homeowners discovered the source of the mold and condensation—the water discharged from the pipe. The homeowners’ policy did not cover mold damage and only covered water damage if caused by a “sudden and accidental” discharge; it specifically excluded continuous or intermittent discharges.

Affirming summary judgment for GMSR’s carrier client, the Court of Appeal held that the leak had indisputably “occurred over a period of time” and that, as a matter of law, the water discharge was not “sudden.” The Court rejected the homeowners’ expert’s “metaphysical moment theory”—i.e., in a “nanosecond” the pipe went from a water-tight condition to a non-water-tight condition—as a basis for a “sudden” discharge because accepting it would impermissibly “read the temporal component of the term ‘sudden’ out of the Policy.”

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