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So when you say 'explosion,' what exactly does that mean?

We cannot say it often enough: Read your insurance policies carefully. If you have a claim, follow the instructions laid out in the policy for filing that claim. And when you purchase a policy, carefully go through what it covers and what it does not cover.

With that out of the way, we have a challenge for our readers. Next time you are out with friends, or during the next family dinner, ask your companions to define the word "explosion." As a person on the street, an average Joe or Jane, what do they think are the kind of things that constitute an explosion?

Does anyone answer, "A decomposing body's cells explosively expanding, causing leakage of bodily fluids?"

If not, then your friends or family agree with State Farm, a Palm Beach County judge and a Florida Court of Appeal. A homeowner recently lost her appeal in an unusual case that drives home a couple of important points regarding homeowners insurance.

A few years ago, a single woman died alone, apparently of natural causes, in her condominium. No one noticed she was missing for two weeks, at which point her neighbors -- including the insured in this case, who owned the unit directly below -- noticed the stench. During those two weeks, the body had decomposed significantly.

When a body is decomposing, internal gases build up in the abdominal cavity. The result is bloating. The pressure from the gases will continue to build until the abdomen bursts, and that explosion releases the gases as well as bodily fluids. In this case, the fluids seeped into the walls and through the floor of the deceased's apartment, carrying the stench into the insured's apartment below. The smell was apparently so bad that, according to the insured, it lingered even after her apartment had been completely overhauled.

The insured looked to her homeowners insurance company, State Farm Florida Insurance Co., for coverage. And then things got really messy.

Sources: 

Insurance Journal, "Florida Court: 'Exploding Corpse' Not Covered Under Property Policy," Michael Adams, May 8, 2014

Courthouse News Service, "The Case of the Exploding Corpse," Izzy Kapnick, Nov. 24, 2009

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