News & Blog

Plaintiff Denied Coverage Under Significant Other’s Insurance Policy Where She Was a Named Insured

September 1, 2020 • Posted By Maria E. Stamatelatos • Insurance Coverage

On July 8, 2020, the Supreme Court, Cortland County issued a decision in Davis v. Phillips. In the case, plaintiff allegedly sustained injuries while visiting the residence owned and occupied by defendant Phillips. While visiting defendant, plaintiff fell when she became entangled in a cord securing defendant’s dog as his dog began to chase a cat. Defendant Travco Insurance Company disclaimed coverage on the basis that plaintiff was a named insured on the relevant homeowner’s insurance policy.

Plaintiff then commenced an action seeking the following: (1) declaratory judgment that plaintiff was not a named insured on the policy on the date of incident and requiring Travco Insurance Company and defendant Bailey Place Insurance, Co. (the insurance agency through which the homeowner’s policy was obtained) to provide coverage for her claims; and (2) damages against all named Defendants. Plaintiff then moved for summary judgment stating Travco was obligated to provide coverage and for summary judgment establishing defendant Phillip’s liability.

 Plaintiff and defendant Phillips were “self-described significant others who began a relationship in 2008.” Phillips maintained his primary residence at the location where plaintiff fell continuously since 2010, while plaintiff resided with him from July 2010 through January 2014. In January 2012, Phillips conveyed the property to plaintiff and the two obtained an insurance policy through Travco Insurance Company, on which they were both named insureds. In January 2014, plaintiff moved to another residence left to her by her deceased husband. Then in December 2016, plaintiff re-conveyed Phillip’s residence to him. Phillip’s insurance broker then issued an insurance binder to him showing Phillips to be the named insured on the insurance policy. The binder did not mention plaintiff, but she was not removed as an insured on the policy.

 The insurance policy expressly excluded coverage for bodily injuries to an insured and for medical expenses incurred as a result of bodily injury to an insured. The Court found that plaintiff’s argument that she was not an insured as a matter of law because she had no measurable interest in Phillip’s residence was unavailing. The Court reasoned “[i]t has long been the rule that, in order to prevent fraud and crime and to prohibit wagering contracts on property in which the insured possesses no interest, the lack of an insurable interest in the property insured renders the property insurance void and unenforceable.” The Court thus found that Travco Insurance Company was entitled to declaratory judgment enforcing the policy as written and adjudjing that it has no obligation to defend or indemnify Phillips.

 

The Court also found that Phillips was not liable for plaintiff’s injuries because owners of animals are not strictly liable for injuries that result from a person being caught in the chain or leash of a dog while engaged in normal canine behavior, and thus Phillips was not liable for plaintiff’s injuries as a matter of law.

 

For more information, please contact Maria E. Stamatelatos at mstamatelatos@frenchcasey.com.