It was a dark and stormy night. The rain dripped from my fedora,as I sat at my lonely desk, looking out over the skyline (you wouldthink that I could afford a place with a ceiling). I could seeflashes of lightning illuminating the city and all its darksecrets. I did not know then that one of those secrets would invademy quietude and make me consider the signs all around.Particularly, I would think about the sign that was not thereanymore, the disappeared sign.

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See, it all started at the restaurant. The restaurant, call itAnthony's Fish Place to protect the innocent, had to make a change.This restaurant, well, it had a sign attached to its frontproclaiming it Anthony's Fish Place. Because of a certain scandalthat everybody knows about, involving a young beautiful woman and acarp, the name had to be changed to Anthony's Steak Place. Thesign, that damned sign, had to be changed. Not to mention themenu.

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A sign company was engaged. The sign was in three great bigparts: a great big Anthony's, a great big Fish, and a great bigPlace.

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On the Big Day, the sign company employees took down the greatbig Fish, detaching it from the building and leaving it laying,just laying there, on the ground. While putting up the new, greatbig Steak, person or persons unknown made off with the great bigFish. That's when we knew that there would be trouble aplenty.

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The cops spent the next several weeks trying to find that greatbig Fish. They didn't. Even the feds came up empty. So, Mr. X andMr. Y, co-owners of the newly renamed Anthony's Steak Place, turnedto their insurer for help. Big help.

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They did not get it. The claim for the stolen sign was denied —denied! — because it had not been attached to the building at thetime of loss. The instruments involved were the ISO commercialproperty coverage form with the special cause of loss formattached.

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What's the real picture here?

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My initial gut response is that the insurance company is ontosomething in its denial of coverage for the theft loss of a signthat had been detached from a building for repair or replacement.The logic goes like this:

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Signs, other than signs attached to buildings, specifically areincluded in the list of Property Not Covered in the InsuranceServices Office standard commercial property policy. However, likethe swallows returning to Capistrano, Coverage Extension e. Outdoorproperty gives back a limited amount of coverage (1,000 clams) forsigns “other than attached to buildings,” but only for thespecified perils of fire, lightning, explosion, riot or civilcommotion, or aircraft. Theft is not on the list, and the temper ofMr. X can hardly be called an explosion, albeit explosive.

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The simple answer, the kind we're looking for, and the correctanswer, the kind we need, seems to be that this was a signunattached to a building (therefore it is not covered propertyunder the basic policy) and that the policy's coverage extensionfor outdoor property does not apply, because its loss was not byone of the specified perils.

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Now that it's all over, I am comfortable with this. However,some of the members of the gang think that the argument could bemade that, once detached and out of the game, the Big Fish becamebusiness personal property of the insured and would be covered ifin the open or in a vehicle within 100 feet of the describedpremises as “all other personal property owned by you and used inyour business.” I am not sure about the validity of this argument,but it can be argued.

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Night falls. So does the FC&S detective. Buttoning up myovercoat and turning my collar to the chill, I cover thewaterfront.

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Bruce Hillman is editorial director, Professional PublishingDivision, of the National Underwriter Co.

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The FC&S Claim Queue is prepared and written by theeditorial staff of The Fire, Casualty and Surety (FC&S)Bulletins, the most widely used encyclopedic reference servicedevoted to insurance policy interpretation and coverage topics.FC&S is published by The National Underwriter Company.

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