The Iowa Supreme Court has overturned a nearly $40-million award to an insurance company for the 2001 fire that destroyed a John Deere facility in Davenport. The fire was discovered in February 2001 in a warehouse that held Deere equipment. Davenport firefighters arrived on the scene thirteen minutes after the fire was discovered, but found there was not enough water pressure in the warehouse system to put out the fire.
The fire burned for several days, and all of Deere’s products were destroyed. The Davenport fire chief testified he believed they could have put out the fire if there had been sufficient water pressure. The cause of the fire has never been determined.
Factory Mutual Insurance Company had done the engineering evaluation of the building for Deere before the company took it over, and after the fire F-M-I was sued by Deere’s main insurance provider Royal Indemnity Company. Royal said F-M-I had breeched its contract with Deere in examining the building and was responsible for the losses in the fire. The district court ruled in favor of Royal and awarded them $39.5 million dollars.
The Iowa Supreme Court overturned the district court ruling, saying Royal is not entitled to the damages it seeks simply because a fire broke out in the warehouse and harmed the defendant. The high court says the cause of the fire was never determined, nor was it ascertained why there was insufficient water pressure to effectively fight the fire. It said there was no proof an adequate inspection could have prevented the fire or prevented the lack of water pressure to fight the fire.