Judge sides with insurance company over old Lowell school lawsuit

WATERLOO — A district court judge has sided with an insurance company that claims it doesn’t have to pay to rebuild the former Lowell Elementary School following a 2019 roof collapse.

The Waterloo Community School District took Employers Mutual Casualty Co. to court saying the carrier refused to honor its policy — which included additional ordinance and law coverage — filing a suit seeking at least $19 million in Polk County District Court in Des Moines in 2021.

Employers Mutual agreed to pay for the collapsed roof but said the rest of the loss wasn’t covered under the policy and asked the court to throw out the suit.

In a ruling issued last month, Judge Jeffrey Bert granted the insurance company’s motion for a summary judgment and assessed court costs to the school district.

“The court finds that the Ordinance or Law Additional Coverage does not provide coverage for the age deterioration outside the area of collapse. … The policy excludes loss or damage caused by deterioration,” Bert wrote in his ruling.

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He noted that the original school was built in 1931, and construction methods and building codes have changed.

“To construe this policy to cover the cost to repair undamaged portions of the building to make the building compliant with current building code requirements would cause insurers to reevaluate premiums for older buildings or worse, to decline to insure them at all. In essence, the district’s interpretation converts the policy into a general maintenance contract,” Bert wrote.

The roof of Classroom 208 collapsed during a snow day on Feb. 20, 2019, closing the entire building and routing classes into a retrofitted former Area Education Agency building in Cedar Falls.

Inspectors determined the collapse was the result of heavy snow weighing on aging mortar in the

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