Late one afternoon I received a phone call from one of my insureds (George and Ardith–names changed to protect the innocent) who had a question regarding coverage for falling objects. Before I repeat his narration me let me set the stage for his story.
George and Ardith live in a beautiful designer home sitting several hundred above the pristine waters of Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced Ponderay). The home is built on a cliffside where a portion of the foundation is anchored to land while the rest of the home projects out over the water and is supported by concrete piers sunk deep into the mountainside. When you stand in the front living room you get the impression you are suspended in air. You cannot see any land on either side of you and only water several hundred feet below through the large picture windows. Absolutely breathtaking!! There is a sliding glass door leading from the kitchen to a landing attached to a stairway leading up the side of the home approximately 80 feet. A guard rail on the landing and up the side of home keep you from falling several hundred feet if you were to stumble while walking on the stairway.
George relates: “Some time ago, our clothes dryer had quit working and my, wife being very frugal, had replaced it with one of a color not matching our washer. She went on vacation a few days ago and I thought it would get me some brownie points if I replaced the washer with one matching the new dryer. I proceeded to find one and, not wanting to be outdone by the frugality of my wife, I went to town to pick it up so I wouldn’t have to pay a delivery fee. I did so without incident.
“Upon returning home I figured I could get the old washer out of the house by myself and drag it up the flight of stairs and then reverse the process to get the new washer into the house.
“I found a 30 foot piece of hemp rope which I always used when I went camping to string my tent on, scooted the old washer out on the landing, and tied the rope to it. I positioned myself about six or seven steps up the stairway and began to pull on the rope. Everything was going just fine for about the first 30 steps when I realized I didn’t have the strength to pull the washer all the way to the top without any stops. It also occurred to me with the hemp rope, having the prickly fiber in it and me not wearing any gloves, I couldn’t just let the rope slide through my hands so I could let the washer go back to the landing. There I was stuck halfway up, running out of strength, and knowing I could not let go for fear of breaking the landing railing if I did.
“I tried to take a step back down the stairway but the weight of the washer was overcoming my ability to keep the rope from sliding through my hands. I did take a couple of more steps, but now the fibers were poking into my hands like so many needles and I just couldn’t hang on. With a groan of exasperation, I let the rope go and to my anguish I watched the washer go bouncing and banging down the steps with the rope snaking its way down behind it. It hit the landing and just for a second I thought that would be the end, but no, the guard rail splintered and the washer launched itself into space.
“I had followed the rope down the steps and arrived at the landing just in time to see the washer hit the water. I stood there watching it sink into that pristine water until it was out of sight. My first reaction was, ‘How am I going to explain this to Ardith. She is going to be mad!’
“I then remembered we had our homeowner policy which would cover falling objects so I called you. I’m sure glad we had this covered. What do we do?”
“Well, George, the good news is we can help with the damage to the landing and possibly help with the removal of the debris of the washer in the lake, but the bad news is we can’t cover the falling object since the coverage is for damage caused by falling object. Who would you like to repair the damage?”
A few days later I called George and he closed out his story.
“I was so embarrassed with what I did, I got a friend of mine to come over and we repaired the landing so it won’t show up as a claim. He helped me get the new washer in and I am still figuring out whether I am going to tell Ardith. Maybe she won’t notice even though now the washer and dryer are the same color. My biggest concern is when the lake level goes down will she look down from our home and see the washer with the rope still attached and start asking questions. So much for brownie points!!!!”
(Note: author took editorial liberties in describing the narrative.)