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The storm Atlas sparks insurance policy reviews for livestock losses

Nearly three years after Winter Storm Atlas blanketed western South Dakota and two months after the state Supreme Court ruled that a Quinn couple was entitled to compensation from their insurance company for nearly 100 yearling heifers that died in the blizzard, dozens of ranchers are reportedly revisiting their insurance policies to determine if they, too, are eligible for claims previously denied.The South Dakota Supreme Court overturned an earlier decision by a lower court that ruled against Richard and Larayna Papousek, who run a crop and livestock ranch 61 miles east of Rapid City. A veterinarian who had examined some of the couple’s dead cattle attributed the cause of death to drowning. Nonetheless, the circuit court had ruled in favor of De Smet Farm Mutual Insurance Co. of South Dakota, finding that the Papouseks’ policy, which specifically covered drowning, didn’t cover their loss because none of the 93 heifers was found in water.But in reversing the lower court, justices noted: “Papouseks point out, however, that reasonable people understand that the hallmark of drowning is not the presence of water outside the body; rather, it is death caused by water or fluid within the body.”That unanimous ruling by the state’s high court has sparked a wave of scrutiny from area ranchers whose claims were initially denied coverage, according to Silvia Christen, executive director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, which represents about 1,000 ranchers in the state.

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Rapid City Journal