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The insured reported that during a thunderstorm an employee at his small (8,000 square foot) commercial facility claimed to have heard a cracking noise which precipitated he and his fellow workers to hurry to the exit of the building. The roof collapsed, and the failure was captured on video. The policyholder claimed that a lightning strike was responsible for the roof failure and related property damage. The policyholder volunteered that repairs had been made to the roof approximately 5 years prior.


In advance of deploying to the scene, Guardian’s Property & Casualty forensic expert consulted weather data and confirmed that over 500 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes had indeed occurred within 3 miles of the subject property. Guardian’s inspection included the aforementioned weather research as well as a permit search and an on-site examination that included the reported interior damage and the roof. The report provided a visual record of the structure’s state via over 200 photographs.


The final report Guardian’s Property & Casualty Group issued to the carrier documented, among other factors, the following observations:

  • – The entire roof was comprised of one section — defined by the state’s (Florida) building code – and was found to be a brittle modified bitumen membrane.
  • – A large portion of the roof had collapsed. Ponding debris was observed on the remaining areas. Vegetation was discovered to be growing on the roof along the south parapet wall.
  • – Roofing cement was observed on the membrane seams.
  • – Throughout the remaining wood planks and wood joist of the roof structure, dark stains, wood rot, and fallen wood deck planks were observed.
  • – No scorch marks were observed to the roof covering or exterior wall.

The electrical box was located at the northwest corner and the main service lines were attached to the west exterior wall. No scorch marks were observed to the electrical box.

Guardian’s forensic analysis concluded that the roof failure was not the result of a storm event, including a lightning strike. Rather, long-term roof leaks and poor drainage were to blame. Critically, ponding on the roof surface contributes to accelerated deterioration. Minute cracks in the top coating and blistering permit moisture to enter the building envelope.


Serving property & casualty insurance carriers, adjusters, and TPAs, Guardian Group, Inc.’s Property & Casualty Group provides reliable determinations of cause and origin that help them resolve their insureds’ claims quickly and fairly. With over 30 years’ complex construction claims experience, Guardian’s engineering forensic experts rapidly deploy to the scene, perform complete on-site investigations, and issue the definitive reports that enable swift resolution of claims. When you need technical construction and engineering expertise, rapid response, and clear communication, you can count on the experts at Guardian Group, Inc. Kindly call Guardian today.

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