The CGL also covers property damage, or, more specifically, ”physical injury to tangible property.” Simple, right? Not exactly. Let’s look at this phrase with a bit more grammatical detail:
These five words are a phrase, or, “… a group of words not containing a verb and its subject. A phrase is used as a single part of speech.”
Central to this phrase is a preposition, which shows “the relation of a noun or pronoun to some other word in the sentence.” The first two words (physical damage) are a noun phrase which is then related to “tangible property” via the preposition “to.” The online Merriam-Webster dictionary contains two potential definitions for "to:" 1.) “a function word to indicate contact or proximity,” 2.) or “a function word to indicate the result of an action or a process.” Using each definition, we get
Number 2 is clearly the mostly likely and commonly accepted definition. I’ve included number 1 mostly out of a sense of completeness. However, it’s also a possibility once we dig deeper into the definitions of the phrase’s words.
Let’s further break down this phrase by defining each of the key words:
We can combine the first three words into the following: “harm to (a) body that is perceptible (by touch).” Although it seems painfully obvious, a third party must be able to perceive the harm.
Most definitions of the word property use the word, “thing” -- a broad and indefinite word, meant to connote, well, anything. Definitions of the word property also refer to the concept of ownership, which means the person alleging damage should have possession of the item. In legal terms, this usually means title, even if the concept is demonstrated informally.
That's it for this post. Next time, I'll look at some of the different types of property seen in the case law.
That’s from my VERY old Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition, © 1973.
 I use three dictionaries: a 1982 American Heritage Dictionary, a 2004 Oxford English Dictionary, and the online Merriam-Webster Dictions.