The term “marring” is one that often appears in homeowner insurance policies and a term that is also often misunderstood or overlooked due to its rarity in colloquial language. A brief look at accompanying terms within the provision containing this word can help you infer what it might be, but knowing the concrete definition can be beneficial when asserting an insurance claim or fighting a denial of coverage. For example, in Ergas v. Universal Property and Cas. Ins. Co. the insurance policy in question contained the word marring accompanied by “wear and tear”. One could infer that marring is some form of deterioration or blemishing based upon the proximity of these terms. This is also known as the principle of “ejusdem generis”. This principle generally assists in determining ambiguous terminology by inferring that a general word or phrase in a contract that follows a list of specifics refers to an item of the same type as those in the list. However, this principle alone will not help the policyholder determine the extent or scope of coverage.
In Ergas there was a dispute over whether tile floor that was damaged constituted a peril excluded by this provision of the insurance policy. The insured argued that coverage was applicable because the policy language referred to gradual deterioration over time and that the tile in this case was chipped in a loss. An appellate court disagreed with this logic by looking at the plain language definition of marring. “Mar” is defined as “to detract from the perfection or wholeness of.”. Other definitions include damage and impairment of an item. In other words, some form of superficial damage to the appearance of the object.
While this interpretation is broader than applying the meaning extracted from the concept of ejusdem generis, it is the one the court used because an insurance policy must be construed in favor of a reasonable plain language meaning. The plain language in this scenario was favorable to the insurer.
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- Ergas v. Universal Property and Cas. Ins. Co., 114 So.3d 286 (4th DCA 2013)