WelderÕs ArcÑ A Friendly Fire

Welder’s Arc— A Friendly Fire

An interesting decision, handed down by the Louisiana Court of Appeals, held that a loss caused by the explosion of hydrogen in an evaporator installation was not covered under a fire policy which excluded loss occurring as a result of explosion, although the explosion was immediately preceded by an arc from a welder’s electrode. The court made a distinction between “hostile” and “friendly” fires and found that the arc from the welder’s electrode was “friendly.”

The Levert-St. John Co., of St. Martin Parish, had instituted action against a number of insurance companies to recover an alleged’ loss of more than $41,000 occurring when an evaporator installation was partially destroyed. The insurance companies moved for dismissal on the ground that the company did not state a cause of action against them. The companies based their defense on the exclusion clause in the standard fire policy which excludes: “Loss occurring . . . (c) as a result of explosion or riot, unless fire ensues, and in that event for loss by fire only.”

The plaintiff alleged that the fire was ignited in the course of repairing a leak in the vapor line from the evaporator to the water condenser, when the welder struck an arc and ignited hydrogen which had collected in the line. There was no allegation in the complaint that any fire followed the explosion.

In concluding its opinion, the court said: . . the fact alleged in this petition describe a typical explosion, which was set or caused by a ‘friendly fire,’ that is the welder’s arc. According to the plaintiff’s petition, therefore, the loss in this case resulted from an explosion, rather than a fire, and such loss was expressly excluded from coverage under the policies issued by defendants.”

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