Circuit Courts Affirm Strict Construction of Flood Insurance Policies

October 3, 2012:  The “Burke’s Law” column featured on recently reviewed two cases exploring the interpretation of national flood insurance policies.  Two circuit court decisions have come out this year, both affirming that national flood insurance policies are to be strictly construed and are not subject to the flexible standards applied to private insurance.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is a federally subsidized program administered by FEMA.  Insureds are uniformly issued the Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP), which is prescribed by law.  In Jacobson v. Metro. Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 672 F.3d 171 (2d. Cir. 2012), the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that the SFIP is to be strictly construed, reasoning that when federal funds are implicated under a government policy, the legal requirements control and the insured must strictly comply with those requirements, even if such strict compliance creates an inequitable result.  In McGair v. American Bankers Insurance Company of Florida, No. 11-2179 (1st Cir. Sep. 4, 2012), the First Circuit similarly construed the SFIP strictly, and determined that a declarations page cannot create an ambiguity in the SFIP.  The courts’ decisions reinforce the fact that flood insurance policies are not the same as private insurance policies and are enforced much more strictly.  The full article can be read here:  Circuit Courts Affirm Strict Construction of Flood Insurance Policies.

“Burke’s Law” is a monthly column featured at and is authored by Demotech’s Legal Counsel and Compliance Manager, Burke Coleman.  The column provides timely legal analysis on some of the most important state and federal cases impacting the insurance industry.