Saturday, September 19, 2009

Appellate Division holds that insured's fraudulent statements regarding lost income void all coverage for loss

In Lee v. Premier Ins. Co., 2009 WL 2438331 (Mass. App. Div.), the Massachusetts Appellate Division (a non-precedent setting court that hears appeals from the District Court)held that an insurer's fraudulent statements about his income voided his coverage not only for lost income but also for medical expenses.

The plaintiff, Lee, allegedly sustained injuries from a rear-end collision while operating a vehicle insured by Premier. Premier denied Lee's PIP claim, on the grounds of non-cooperation. Lee then sued Premier.

The evidence showed that in his PIP application and in an examination under oath Lee more than doubled the average weekly wage that he earned, and that he also exaggerated his annual income in 2003 in his examination under oath and at trial.

The Massachusetts Appellate Division held that in light of Lee's false statements with respect to his income Premier permissibly denied Lee's entire claim, including his claim for medical expenses. The court relied on Gechijian v. Richmond Ins. Co., 298 Mass. 487 (1937), which held:

when it is established . . . that the insured has knowingly made false statements, even in such a matter as value, for the purpose of influencing the adjustment of the loss, public policy demands that the contract be so construed as to discourage such conduct and to give full protection to the insurer.

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