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Insurance claims regarding damaged art can be elusive to value

Florida is a state of numerous exhibitions, museums and centers for the display and development of different kinds of art. Works of art placed in museums or brought to them in traveling exhibitions are largely owned by outside parties. Insurance coverage must be obtained for all artwork that appears for exhibit or that is permanently situated. Unfortunately, if an insane rampage by someone results in massive damage and destruction of insured pieces, a virtual hornet's nest of insurance claims and litigation may result.

In another state recently, a security guard for a major university arts center went on an inexplicable spree of destruction against the institution's displayed works of art. He walked through numerous galleries and defaced various paintings. He also shot at paintings and statues, resulting in extensive damage before the perpetrator killed himself. It is unknown if the man was angry at his employer or whether he had an irrational mental breakdown with no explanation.

It is a blessing to see no other loss of human life; however, the insurers, museum curators, owners of artwork and some artists with damaged works are now laboring mightily to bring some sense of rationality to the question of how to value and compensate the damage. First, the original value of each piece must be determined, a weighty task in itself that will undoubtedly defy mathematical precision. If pieces of artwork may be restored, appraisals of the cost will be necessary.

As in many other types of insurance claims that would be made in Florida or any other jurisdiction, experts must be brought in to assess the damage and the cost of repair or replacement. However, perhaps more than any other property covered by a contract of insurance, artwork is most defiant of precise valuation. That is because the process is subjective, requiring a bit of guesswork along the way, despite all attempts at universal valuation. All of the foregoing is independent of any considerations of litigation that may be filed against the museum for its possible liability in allowing and facilitating the danger.

Source: dispatch.com, "Details of damage to art during Wexner Center shooting still secret", Mary Mogan Edwards, Dec. 25, 2015

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