297 S.E.2d 637 (S.C. 1982), 21809, King v. North River Ins. Co.

Docket Nº:21809.
Citation:297 S.E.2d 637, 278 S.C. 411
Party Name:Mitchell KING, Jr., Appellant, v. NORTH RIVER INSURANCE COMPANY, Respondent.
Case Date:November 22, 1982
Court:Supreme Court of South Carolina
 
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Page 637

297 S.E.2d 637 (S.C. 1982)

278 S.C. 411

Mitchell KING, Jr., Appellant,

v.

NORTH RIVER INSURANCE COMPANY, Respondent.

No. 21809.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

November 22, 1982

       [278 S.C. 412] W. Francis Marion and Frances D. Ellison, of Haynsworth, Perry, Bryant, Marion & Johnstone, Greenville, for appellant.

       Albert Q. Taylor, Jr., of Leatherwood, Walker, Todd & Mann, Greenville, for respondent.

       NESS, Justice:

       This is an appeal from a directed verdict granted respondent North River Insurance Company. We reverse and remand for a new trial.

       Appellants contracted with respondent for fire insurance coverage on appellant's warehouse. The contract contained a provision insuring the property against damage caused by vandalism or malicious mischief, for which respondent collected an extra premium. The contract defines vandalism or malicious mischief as "only the wilful and malicious damage to or destruction of the property covered."

       The roof of the warehouse collapsed following a heavy rainstorm. An inspection revealed a beer can and two whiskey bottles lodged in the upper downspout completely blocking drainage from the roof.

       At trial, appellants contended the clogged downspout caused water to accumulate and the roof to collapse, and that the downspouts had become clogged through acts of vandalism by persons throwing the bottles on the roof. Appellant's [278 S.C. 413] expert testified that normally the downspouts should have been more than adequate to drain the roof.

Page 638

       Respondent contended (1) that the throwing of the bottles on the roof did not constitute vandalism or malicious mischief as defined by the policy, and (2) even if the acts did constitute vandalism or malicious mischief, the vandalism was not the proximate cause of the loss.

       On a motion for directed verdict the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. If more than one reasonable inference can be drawn from the testimony, the case should be submitted to the jury. Whisenant v. James Island Corp., et al., 277 S.C. 10, 281 S.E.2d 794 (1981).

       "Vandalism" in a comprehensive fire insurance policy should not be construed to apply only to a hostile or wilful destruction, but should be extended to its popular meaning, including any unusual destruction caused by the doing of a wrongful act. Parnell v. Rohrer Chevrolet...

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