The case started in Massachusetts state court and was removed by the insurer to federal court. The federal judge predicted that even though a 1951 decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that there was no coverage for the innocent coinsured under similar facts, if the case were before the SJC today it would hold that there is coverage. He based that prediction on changes to the statute regulating fire insurance policies and on Massachusetts Superior Court decisions.
Thursday, June 7, 2018
U.S. District Court weighs in on innocent coinsured doctrine
Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly quoted me in an article about Shepperson v. Metropolitan Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 2018 WL 2324089 (D. Mass.), in which the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts addressed the innocent coinsured doctrine. That doctrine applies to property policies that insure more than one person. If one of them commits an intentional act that causes damage to the insured property, that insured is not covered because damages from intentional acts are excluded. Under the innocent coinsured doctrine, the other, innocent, insured person also cannot recover under the policy.
In Shepperson, the court held that an insured homeowner cannot be denied coverage for a fire loss even if the fire was set by another household member who is an insured on the homeowner’s policy, as long as two conditions are met. First, the homeowner did not participate in the arson. Second, the household member was made an insured by the operation of the policy language, such as a definition of insureds that includes any relatives who are household members, rather than by a conscious decision to make them an insured listed by name on the policy.