Thursday, March 9, 2017

Massachusetts Appeals Court distinguishes slander of title from slander

Wayne and Cynthia Robbins were sued for slander of title.  The underlying plaintiff alleged that they published false claims with respect to the ownership of land that was owned by him.

The Robbinses sought insurance coverage from their homeowner's insurer, Hingham Mutual Fire Insurance Company.  Hingham declined to defend or indemnify, asserting that the policy did not provide coverage for slander of title.

In Robbins v. Hingham Mutual Fire Ins. Co., 91 Mass. App. Ct. 1108, 2017 WL 729749 (unpublished), the Massachusetts Appeals Court agreed with Hingham.  It held that although the policy provides coverage for slander, slander of title is a different tort.  Slander encompasses "a publication of a false and defamatory statement by spoken words of and concerning the plaintiff."  Slander of title involves "disparagement of a person's title to real or personal property."

There's no good reason why slander of title shouldn't be a covered loss, as long as the standard exclusions apply.  Seems like its time to amend the personal injury coverage in homeowner's policies. 

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