Published on:

Insurance Company Denied Declaratory Judgment in Massachusetts Wrongful Death Case

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.

Both the district court and later the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled against the insurance company, finding that the improper use of the generator was an act of tortuous personal conduct of the insured, and not an incident arising out of the use of the cabin per se. Although the accident occurred on the premises of the cabin, the courts found that the generator itself was not a fixture of those premises, and the four deaths were the result of the negligence of the father, and not as a result of any condition of the premises. As a result of these rulings, the estates of the deceased children may seek damages from the insurance company for the wrongful deaths.

Are You Involved in a New England Insurance Dispute?

The recently decided case demonstrates that insurance companies will often go to great lengths to deny coverage for incidents that are legally covered under the policy they sold to an insured. Without qualified representation against an insurance company, many accident victims or others with a valid claim for compensation may give up on their claim before seeking a favorable ruling from an appellate court to get their rightful compensation. The Rhode Island insurance dispute attorneys at Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC, help our clients obtain compensation from insurance companies, and will take claims to court and appeal if necessary. Don’t let the massive resources and legal teams of a big insurance company intimidate you into giving up your case or taking an insufficient settlement offer without contacting us first. Contact us to schedule an appointment with a qualified insurance attorney at Bilodeau Capalbo today by calling 401-300-4055.

Contact Information