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Opinion: Why Montecito’s mudslide victims don’t need flood insurance to recover their losses

A sign on the 101 Freeway in Montecito is nearly submerged by mud and debris on Jan. 15.
A sign on the 101 Freeway in Montecito is nearly submerged by mud and debris on Jan. 15.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Law professor Kenneth S. Klein writes that Montecito flood victims should not suppose their property losses are covered by homeowners’ insurance. Contrary to Klein’s statement, that is exactly what they should suppose. (“Another lesson from Montecito — even in semi-arid Southern California, we need flood insurance,” Opinion, Jan. 15)

California courts have struck down policy provisions that exclude recovery for floods and mudslides, as long as they were set in motion by a fire. The leading case on this topic is Howell vs. State Farm, in which California Court of Appeal judges in 1990 held that exclusions for flooding and earth movements may not apply when they were caused by a fire.

Klein goes on to say that flood insurance is “your best hope” to recover. That suggestion is wholly unacceptable due to the inadequacies and dollar restrictions in flood insurance policies. Virtually all victims who lost their homes in Montecito are entitled to recover their losses under their homeowners’ policies.

Contrary to Klein’s suggestion, victims should file for all of their losses under their homeowners’ policies. Any insurance company that would deny such claims would be exposing itself to damages far beyond the property loss in question.

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Matthew and Ray Bourhis, San Francisco

The writers are attorneys specializing in insurance coverage.

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion and Facebook


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