Wear and Tear Exclusion Precluded Coverage for Partial Roof Collapse

June 21, 2016 | Insurance Coverage

The wear and tear exclusion in a homeowner’s insurance policy precluded coverage for a partial roof collapse to the insureds’ home, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has ruled.


A home owned by Eugene and Diane Gallegos in Colorado suffered a partial roof collapse caused, at least in part, by the accumulated weight of ice and snow on the roof after a snowstorm. They sought coverage for their loss under a homeowner’s insurance policy issued to them by Safeco Insurance Co.

Safeco’s engineer concluded that the sagging of the roof was not due to the weight of snow and ice, but rather, poor construction and “gravity-loading” events that took place before the Gallegoses purchased the home.

After Safeco denied the Gallegoses’ request for insurance benefits, the Gallegoses sued.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado granted summary judgment to Safeco, and the Gallegoses appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. They argued that Safeco could not rely on the wear and tear exclusion in their policy because there was no evidence of “abnormal” wear and tear.

The Tenth Circuit’s Decision

The circuit court affirmed.  In its decision, the Tenth Circuit declared that the Safeco policy “unambiguously” excluded losses caused, “directly or indirectly,” by “wear and tear, marring, scratching, deterioration.” It ruled that the exclusion was not limited to “abnormal wear and tear,” but rather, “all” wear and tear.

The circuit court pointed out that the Gallegoses’ own engineering expert had confirmed in his report that one of the reasons the roof had “deflected” under the relatively modest amount of snowfall reported during the storm was “general wear and tear and deterioration.” The court found that the Gallegoses had not identified “a single piece of evidence in the record” upon which a juror could conclude that the maintenance and construction defects that also had been identified by their engineering expert amounted to anything more than “normal” wear and tear.

The case is Gallegos v. Safeco Ins. Co., No. 15-1238 (10th Cir. May 16, 2016).

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  • Robert Tugander

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