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Should a court only allow an expert’s opinion as to the cause of a fire in a fire insurance coverage case where that expert followed National Fire Protection Association (“NFPA”) 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations? A number of decisions suggest that the answer is “no,” as long as the expert’s opinions are based on “sound and reliable methodology.” The analysis by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in a recent case offers practical suggestions to insurance carriers and policyholders seeking to introduce or challenge an expert’s opinion that is not based on NFPA 921 in a fire insurance coverage case.

The CaseAfter a fire occurred at Hall’s Restaurant in Ellington, Missouri, the restaurant presented a claim to its insurance carrier, Depositors Insurance Company, under a commercial property insurance policy. The insurer investigated and denied coverage, asserting that the fire had been intentionally set by, or at the direction of, a representative of Hall’s Restaurant.


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