Monday, January 23, 2012

A blog every insurance agent in Massachusetts should be reading

My colleagues over at ForbesGallagher have a very informative and frequently updated blog, Agency Checklists, aimed at Massachusetts insurance agents. One of the recent articles discusses upcoming changes to the statutorily-mandated commissions that auto insurers pay to agents. Another article describes a recent requirement that homeowner's insurers offer coverage for oil leaks in some circumstances.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

U.S. District Court finds coverage for Pring-Wilson under umbrella policy but not homeowner's policy

I have posted previously here and here about the declaratory judgment action over insurance coverage issues in the civil wrongful death case against Alexander Pring-Wilson. Pring-Wilson was a Harvard graduate student who was in a drunken street fight with Michael Colono, resulting in Colono's death. Pring-Wilson pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Colono's estate filed a civil wrongful death suit against him, resulting in a judgment of $260,000 which is currently under appeal.

Pring-Wilson sought coverage for the wrongful death suit under a homeowner's policy issued by Fire Insurance and an umbrella policy issued by Farmers Insurance to his mother, Cynthia Pring, in Colorado. The insurers filed a declaratory judgment action in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

After a bench trial, in Fire Ins. Exchange v. Pring-Wilson, __ F. Supp. 2d __, 2011 WL 6396518, Judge Saris ruled that under Colorado law the Fire Insurance policy is not required to indemnify Pring-Wilson, but the Farmers policy must indemnify him.

The Fire Insurance policy defined "insured" as a "permanent resident" of the policyholder's household under the age of 21 or a relative of the policyholder. The Farmers policy covers "the following residents of your household . . . (1) your relatives." "Relative" is defined in the policy as "persons living with you who are related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption."

The judge had ruled earlier that under the Fire Insurance policy Pring-Wilson was a permanent resident of his mother's household.

Farmers argued that Pring-Wilson is not covered under the umbrella policy because he was not "living with" his mother, the policyholder.

The court disagreed, "Pring-Wilson was not physically living with his mother on the date of the accident because he was away at school, but he was living with her in the sense that his school addresses were all temporary and he was a resident of [his mother's] home. He was not yet formally engaged and planned to move home within weeks."

The court held that under Colorado law coverage was excluded in the Fire Insurance policy by an exclusion for damages that resulted "for any occurrence caused by an intentional act of any insured where the results are reasonably foreseeable."

The Farmers policy did not contain that exclusion. Rather, it excluded coverage for damages that are "expected or intended from the standpoint of the insured." The court held that Farmers failed to establish that Pring-Wilson subjectively expected or intended any harm to Colono.

The court finally held that the umbrella policy would drop down to cover the loss where the primary policy did not provide coverage.