Blog Archives

Can You Burn the House Down and Still Recover From Your Homeowners Insurer? An Illinois Judge Says Yes!

Someday the editors of this blog will have to create a “Hall of Shame” for most witheringly wrong-headed pieces of first-party property insurance jurisprudence, and a clear contender is a federal decision out of Illinois that came down early last month.  In Streit v. Metropolitan Cas. Ins. Co., 2015 WL 6736677, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149904 (N.D.Ill., Nov. 4, 2015), the court determined that there was coverage for a fire set by one of the insureds because the intentional acts exclusion in the contract of insurance was void.  The state’s Standard Fire Policy did not exclude intentional acts, and the judge held that that meant that fires caused by intentional conduct, “including arson, . . . must be covered.” The

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Arson, Arson and Fraud, Fire, Fortuity, Homeowners Coverage

Tennessee Court Weighs in on Whether Arson is a Species of Vandalism and Malicious Mischief

Last month in what was a case of first impression in Tennessee, a unanimous panel of the state’s intermediate level appellate court joined those jurisdictions that have concluded that arson does not constitute a type of vandalism and malicious mischief.  As is typically the case, the issue arose after a fire destroyed a vacant building and the carrier denied liability because the policy excluded loss by vandalism and malicious mischief during vacancy.  Southern Trust Ins. Co. v. Phillips, 2015 WL 3612989, 2015 Tenn. App. LEXIS 457 (Tenn.Ct.App., Jun. 10, 2015) contains a helpful canvas of state law on both sides of the question, but the holding itself is obviously far less useful for insurers. The insured owned a home in

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Arson, Arson and Fraud, Exclusions, Fire, Vacant or Unoccupied, Vandalism

Squatter’s Warming Fire in Vacant Home Held Not to be Vandalism by Divided California Court

In February, we published a Post about a Florida decision that aligned that state with the clear majority of American courts that have held that the destruction of property by an intentionally set fire is encompassed within the terms “vandalism and malicious mischief.”  Last Friday, in Hung Van Ong v. Fire Ins. Exch., 2015 WL 1524464, 2015 Cal. App. LEXIS 290 (Cal.Ct.App., Apr. 3, 2015), two of the three justices on a California intermediate level appellate court panel rejected that approach, reversing a grant of summary judgment in favor of the insurer in a case in which a vacant dwelling had been damaged when a transient set a fire on the kitchen floor to warm himself because they concluded that

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Arson, Exclusions, Fire, Vacant or Unoccupied, Vandalism

Florida Court Holds Arson is a Type of Excluded Vandalism and Malicious Mischief

Earlier this month a unanimous Florida appellate court joined a number of other states that have held that an all-risk policy exclusion for vandalism and malicious mischief operates to bar coverage for an arson loss.  The opinion can be found at Botee v. Southern Fid. Ins. Co., 2015 WL 477836, 2015 Fla. App. LEXIS 1566 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App., Feb. 6, 2015). The insured, Raziya Botee, owned a single-family home that was destroyed by an arsonist on October 10, 2012.  It was undisputed that the structure had been vacant for over a month when the fire broke out.  Her homeowner’s insurer, Southern Fidelity (SFIC), denied liability because the contract of insurance excluded coverage for losses caused by “vandalism and malicious mischief, theft or

Tagged with: ,
Posted in All Risk, Ambiguity, Arson, Exclusions, Fire, Vacancy and Unoccupancy, Vandalism

Fourth Circuit: Twenty-Seven Days of Inaction Enough to Waive Right to Rescind for Violations of Protective Safeguards Clause

The marriage liturgy in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer contains the well-known line “speak now or forever hold your peace,” and the take-away from a recent Fourth Circuit decision out of North Carolina is clearly “act now or forever lose your rights.”  In Colony Ins. Co. v. Peterson, — Fed.Appx. —, 2014 WL 4179962, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 16320 (4th Cir., Aug. 25, 2014), a divided panel of the Court of Appeals held that an insurer had to pay a $2.5 million fire loss even though the policyholders had made material misrepresentations in their application and violated a protective safeguards endorsement.  The carrier was deemed to have waived its right to rescind and to be estopped from denying coverage

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Arson, Arson and Fraud, Fire, Inspection, Protective Safeguards, Rescission, Waiver

South Carolina: Admission of Cause & Origin Testimony by Fire Chief Was Prejudicial Error

In James D. Fowler v. Nationwide Mutual Fire Ins. Co., 2014 WL 3844215, 2014 S.C. App. LEXIS 209 (S.C. App., Aug. 6, 2014), South Carolina’s Court of Appeals recently held that it was prejudicial error to allow the jury to consider either the report of a volunteer fire chief or his testimony on the issue of cause and origin if he does not qualify as an expert.  The take away is that if a firefighter can’t testify as an expert, any opinion he or she has on causation is simply not a datum that the fact-finder is entitled to know about. The insured’s home was destroyed by fire in January of 2007.  His homeowner’s carrier, Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company,

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Arson, Arson and Fraud, Experts, Fire, Investigation
About The Property Insurance Law Observer
For more than four decades, Cozen O’Connor has represented all types of property insurers in jurisdictions throughout the United States, and it is dedicated to keeping its clients abreast of developments that impact the insurance industry. The Property Insurance Law Observer will survey court decisions, enacted or proposed legislation, and regulatory activities from all 50 states. We will also include commentary on current issues and developing trends of interest to first-party insurers.
Stay Connected

Email:

Topics
Cozen O’Connor Blogs