This week I turn our look at the total loss standards across the Union to Kansas. I felt this was especially fitting as I have spent time recently looking into the musical Wicked after my father kindly purchased my wife and me a pair of tickets for its stop here in Tampa. For those of you who get out as little as I do, Wicked is apparently a smash Broadway hit telling the story of the witches from the Wizard of Oz. Perhaps the most famous line from the original Wizard of Oz, and one I find myself referencing from time to time, is the memorable “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” as seen here:
Getting down to business, my research shows that Kansas first looked at the issue of total loss in 1902. Then, the Supreme Court of Kansas was dealing with a fire loss to a building. At issue was whether the proper definition of total loss was used at trial. In reviewing this issue, the Supreme Court of Kansas held,
The phrase ‘total loss,’ or ‘wholly destroyed,’ as used when applied to the subject of insurance, does not contemplate the entire annihilation or extinction of the property insured. Neither does it require that any portion of the property remaining after loss shall have no value for any purpose whatever, but does mean only that destruction of the property insured to such extent as to deprive it of the character in which it was insured. Although some portion of the building may remain after the fire, yet if such portion cannot be reasonably used to advantage in the reconstruction of the building, or will not, for some purpose, bring more money than sufficient to remove the ruins, such building is, in contemplation of the law, a ‘total loss,’ or ‘wholly destroyed.’1
This, is commonly deemed the restoration to use test. Fortunately for the insured in this case, the jury found the building was actually a total loss and the court held that, because Kansas is a valued policy state, the building owner was owed the benefit of the full policy limits.
1Liverpool & L. & G. Ins. Co. v. Heckman, 67 P. 879, 881-2 (Kan. 1902).