On May 10, 2018, the judges of the West Virginia Mass Litigation Panel granted summary judgment in favor of New Hampshire Insurance Company on a $30 million claim arising from the March 2015 collapse of an airport runway extension. New Hampshire was the Airport’s first-party property insurer.
The runway extension was the largest manmade slope ever constructed. It extended the plateau on which Yeager Airport is located by some 500 feet, to create room for EMAS energy-absorbing blocks at the end of the runways, and cost more than $30 million to create. In March 2015, the manmade slope collapsed. The Airport sought coverage under the New Hampshire policy.
In its Order, the Panel agreed with New Hampshire that the policy did not insure the manmade slope. Rather, the policy insured only the 13 listed buildings and 41 specific items of airport equipment, the combined value of which roughly matched the total policy limit. The Panel found it to be unambiguous that the man-made slope was not among the property that the policy insured.
The Panel further held that coverage for the man-made slope would additionally be excluded by the policy’s exclusions for land and for the cost of grading, filling, and excavating. The Airport’s claim against New Hampshire for the cost of the slope, as well as for punitive damages, was dismissed.