Most Rhode Island homeowner’s insurance policies insure the policyholder from personal liability for injuries and property damage that may occur both on the insured property as well as in other places. The personal liability protection is broad, but not unlimited, and many exclusions apply, depending on the specific homeowner’s insurance policy. In a recently decided appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled against an insurance company in their attempt to enforce an exclusion against a policyholder whose children and others were killed in an accident while vacationing at a cabin in Maine.
Prior to the filing of the recently decided case, a tragedy occurred when the two children of a Massachusetts property owner and two of their friends were celebrating a birthday at a Maine cabin that was also owned by the father. While in the cabin, the children and their friends used a gasoline-powered generator to run a small refrigerator inside the cabin. The generator was used inside the cabin and there was not adequate ventilation for the exhaust, resulting in the four individuals succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning and dying.
The estates of the two deceased friends notified the insurance company supplying homeowners insurance to the father’s Massachusetts primary residence that they would be seeking damages under that policy for the deaths of the two friends. The insurance company then filed suit in district court seeking a judgment that the incident was not covered under the policy because of an exclusion for incidents arising out of liability from another premises, as the Maine cabin was not an insured premises under the Massachusetts homeowner’s policy.