Hidden or Not Hidden Mold
The HO3 2000, (ISO), covers mold if it is hidden within the walls, or ceiling, or beneath the floors or above the ceiling of a structure if such loss results from the accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from within (a) A plumbing, heating, …
My question is if a cabinet under a sink could possibly be interpreted as hidden within a wall. I don’t see how, but I could possibly be told this is a hidden area and it is covered. If we go with the strict wording of the policy it is not hidden within a wall, just within a cabinet under the sink.
The policy doesn’t define hidden, and court tradition is to refer to a standard dictionary. Merriam Webster Online defines hidden as being out of sight and not readily apparent. A wall is defined as one of the sides of a room or building connecting floor and ceiling or foundation and roof. A cabinet is a case or cupboard usually having doors and shelves.
Unless the insured has some odd arrangement, most cabinets under the sink open. While the insured may not regularly look for mold, if the insured can open a cabinet it’s not a stretch to expect him to pay attention to the condition of the area. A cabinet is not a wall, and the exception is only for damage behind walls or ceilings – not cabinets, closets, or other such structures. A wall can’t be opened to store dishwasher detergent or disinfectant in.
Most references in Couch on Insurance refer to hidden decay regarding collapse, which gets into different territory. I was unable to find a similar case to what you have – the closest one had different policy language that changes the argument. In our opinion it’s not hidden behind a wall if it’s in a cabinet – the two are different structures, and the policy exception is clearly only for mold behind ceilings and walls, not cabinets.
This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional service. If legal advice is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.