The Fourth Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the insurer should not have disclaimed coverage for water damage caused by frozen pipes in plaintiffs’ seasonal home. The case turned on the whether the plaintiffs took “reasonable care” (within the meaning of the policy) to maintain the heat in the house:
… [P]laintiffs established as follows: the home’s heating system was recently installed, was regularly maintained, and had never required repairs; Robert P. McAleavey (plaintiff) winterized the property by setting the internal temperature to approximately 50 degrees in the late fall of 2017; plaintiff checked on the home approximately 15 times during the winter of 2017-2018; during those visits, plaintiff ensured that the temperature was appropriate, that no windows were broken, that the toilets flushed, and that the water ran; and plaintiff last visited the house on January 11 or 12, 2018, at which point the interior temperature was “comfortable.” Although plaintiff was unable to visit the property between mid-January and late February 2018 due to a broken leg and his resulting hospitalization, plaintiffs’ submissions established that, during such period, they had no notice or reason to suspect that anything was wrong with the premises or the heating system. Moreover, plaintiffs’ neighbors and realtor periodically checked on the property’s exterior.
In our view, the term “reasonable care” as used in the policy is ambiguous inasmuch as it is susceptible of at least two reasonable interpretations, at least one of which supports plaintiffs’ contention that they exercised reasonable care, and this ambiguity was not resolved by extrinsic evidence … .
” ‘[U]nder [these] circumstances, the ambiguity must be resolved against the insurer which drafted the contract’ ” … . We thus conclude that plaintiff’s loss is specifically covered under the policy and that the exclusion relied on by defendant does not unambiguously apply in this case … . McAleavey v Chautauqua Patrons Ins. Co., 2021 NY Slip Op 03954, Fourth Dept 6-17-21