Insurance Law Lesson 25: What is Money?

Recall that “property damage” liability coverage applies only for claims involving physical injury to tangible property, or loss of use of tangible property (Lesson 24). Is money tangible?

Michigan’s Supreme Court has held that bank deposits are not tangible property. See Chicago, Duluth & Georgian Bay Transit Co. v Corp & Securities Comm., 319 Mich 14, 27 (1947); See also, Five Star Real Estate v. Kemper Cas. Ins Co (Mich App 2006).

How about physical cash? Is it tangible?

It is not artwork. You did not really care for the physical print of Mr. Franklin on that fancy not-paper.

It is not a book. You did not care for the words printed on that fancy not-paper but for their power.

If Jim smashes your car, you have lost your transportation. The car’s value is its physical property. But if Jim mistakenly loses your briefcase of money, what you’ve lost is really purchasing power.

Money is an IOU that is exchanged for other items. Does the fact that it is printed on paper make it physical? What about the deed to your house? You may have paid six figures for that deed, and it entitles you to your house. But if it gets destroyed, its value is not what you paid for it.

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