A woman in Florida says that her condo was damaged when the corpse of her next door neighbor exploded, causing foul-smelling fluid to leak through her walls, but a court this week ruled that State Farm did not have to be like a good neighbor and pay her back for the money she spent cleaning her place up.
The bizarre case hinged on the definition of the word “explosion.” Judy Rodrigo’s State Farm policy specifically covered damage from explosions.
Her neighbor in the Jupiter, Florida, condominium complex passed away and the woman’s decomposing corpse went undiscovered for weeks. Rodrigo said in her lawsuit that the deceased neighbor “exploded thereby causing blood and bodily fluids to go into the adjoining condominium and the unit owned by Judy Rodrigo.”
The elderly neighbor passed away in 2008, of natural causes. But she lived alone and her corpse was not found until an insufferable stench began to fill the surrounding condominium units.
When the condo’s maintenance drew forced open the door of the woman’s apartment, they found her body on the floor, with her pet puppy picking at it.
“I don’t know how the dog stayed alive. It must have been at her for some time,” said another neighbor, Nicholas Colangelo.
In fact, the corpse has been left unattended for so long — at least two weeks — that the trapped gases in the deceased woman’s abdomen had caused her body to burst open, spraying fluid from the corpse not only all over her own condo unit, but through the walls into Rodrigo’s unit as well.
In her lawsuit, Rodrigo said that the gruesome biological reaction constituted an “explosion,” and State Farm should pay for what she spent cleaning her own ceiling and walls.
But a County Court judge disagreed that the dead woman’s decomposition was an “explosion” and on Wednesday an appellate judge upheld that ruling, saying the the term “explosion” in the State Farm policy should be defined the same way “the man on the street” would understand it.
“The plain meaning of the term ‘explosion’ does not include a decomposing body’s cells explosively expanding, causing leakage of bodily fluids,” the appeals court said.
Though the judge said that State Farm did not have to pay Rodrigo’s cleanup costs, he did give Rodrigo credit for a “novel” attempt to redefine the terms of her policy.