Homeowners’ insurance policies are typically lengthy documents that contain many provisions most homeowners would find surprising. However, many homeowners fail to perform their due diligence and adequately examine the provisions of an insurance policy before signing. As a result, disputes often arise between insurance companies and insured individuals over the meaning of particular language in the policy. These disputes frequently occur when dealing with exclusions from coverage outlined in the policy. As the case below illustrates, parties should ensure that terms are well-defined in a policy and that the parties agree to the definitions before executing a policy.
In Bottee v. Southern Fidelity Ins. Co., an arsonist intentionally caused a fire that destroyed the plaintiff’s home. The plaintiff’s home was vacant for more than a month when the arsonist caused the fire. The plaintiff filed an property insurance claim with her homeowners’ insurance company, which denied the claim because the insurance policy in question excluded losses caused by malicious mischief and vandalism if it had been unoccupied for greater than thirty days before the loss occurred. The plaintiff then filed an action in state court against the insurance company. The court granted the insurance company’s request for summary judgment in its favor, and the plaintiff appealed. Continue reading →