The Meaning Of Explosion In An Auto Policy

Dallas insurance lawyers might one day have this to deal with.
The El Paso Court of Appeals issued an opinion in 1975, styled Allen v. Manhatten Fire and Marine Insurance Company. Here is some relevant information.
This is a suit on an insurance policy in which the Allen sued his insurance carrier, Manhatten, on the grounds that the destruction of his tank truck was caused by an ‘explosion’ within the terms of the insurance policy. Trial was to the Court without a jury and a take-nothing judgment was entered. This court sustained the judgment.
The occurrence in question made the basis of the suit is the collapse inward of the metal tank on Allen’s truck which is used for transporting liquids. There was no fire, and if there was any noise connected with the collapse no one heard it. Allen seeks to recover under Coverage F of the policy, which provides, in part:
‘To pay for direct and accidental loss of or damage to the automobile, hereinafter called loss, caused by windstorm, hail, earthquake, explosion, riot or civil commotion, * * *.’
It should be noted that there is a comprehensive provision under which Allen’s loss could have been covered, but he selected and paid premiums for coverage under Coverage F, and he can recover only if his loss was caused by explosion. Allen contends that the term ‘explosion’ is in itself ambiguous and that a fact finder could find that his tank truck was destroyed by an explosion. The parties entered into a stipulation, as follows:
‘The parties hereto agree that the occurrence made the basis of this suit was an ‘implosion’ which did not result from the breaking forth of a confined substance and which was not caused by the ignition of combustible gases.
‘The parties hereto agree that the term ‘implosion’ means an internal collapse followed immediately by an outward rush of air and further that an implosion is not caused by an ignition of combustible gases or the breaking forth of a confined substance.
‘The parties hereto stipulate that at all times pertinent to this cause the defendant did not write a policy of insurance which provided coverage for property damage resulting from implosion as a separate and distinct occurrence or peril.’

In this case the peril insured against was ‘explosion’ and Allen’s burden initially was to prove that the loss occurrence was an explosion.
Allen stipulated that his loss was from an occurrence not within the policy terms, that is, an ‘implosion,’ and that no coverage is written for an implosion as a separate occurrence or peril. This court is bound by that stipulated definition, which is, that it is not as a result of the breaking forth of a confined substance and not as a result of the ignition of combustible gases; and, stripped of what it is not, the stipulated meaning of ‘implosion’ is ‘an internal collapse followed immediately by an outward rush of air.’ The question is, then, does this stipulated definition describe an occurrence which the trier of facts could find to be an explosion?
In this case, the stipulation is that the occurrence did not result from the breaking forth of a confined substance. The stipulation, also, is that ‘implosion’ means an internal collapse.
Here, it is stipulated that the rupture occurred first, then there was an outward rushing of air. This court was committed to the rule that the true meaning of exlosion in each particular case must be settled not by any fixed standard or accurate measurement but by the common experience and notions of men in matters of that sort, and further that the term in an insurance policy is to be construed in its popular sense, and as understood by ordinary men, and not by scientific men. Adhering to the rules discussed in this case, the court was convinced that the definition submitted by the parties leaves no fact question but that the occurrence was not an explosion within the meaning of the policy.

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