In Am. Reliable Ins. Co. v. Addington., No. 3:21-CV-00848, __ F.Supp.3d __, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 218436, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee (the District Court) considered whether a tenant’s live-in partner and the partner’s adult son constituted a “family” in the underlying lease and, thus, were implied co-insureds under the Sutton Rule. The District Court determined that the arrangement did constitute a “family” and that the Sutton Rule barred subrogation.
The Supreme Court of Illinois (Supreme Court) reversed a 2021 appellate court decision which held that an insurer had to duty to defend the property owner’s tenant following a fire at the property. In Sheckler v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co., 2022 IL 128012, the state’s highest court ruled that the appellate court’s reliance on Dix Mutual Insurance Co. v. LaFramboise, 597 N.E. 2d 622 (Ill. 1992) was misplaced as the ruling in Dix was limited to a specific set of facts, which did not apply to the current case.
In J&J Fish on Ctr. Str., Inc. v. Crum & Forster Specialty Ins. Co., No. 20-cv-644-bhl, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16361, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (District Court) recognized that “[t]here will be no further fish fries on Center Street until someone pays to repair the collapsed floor at J&J Fish on Center Street, Inc. (J&J Fish).” The contenders were: 1) J&J Fish; 2) its’ insurer, Crum & Forster Specialty Insurance Company (Insurer); and 3) J&J Fish’s landlord, Vision Land, LLC (Vision). Recognizing Insurer’s right to subrogate against Vision based on the terms of the parties’ lease, the District Court held Insurer owed J&J Fish coverage for the losses it sustained, but that Insurer could subrogate against Vision for anything it had to pay J&J Fish.
In United States Automatic Sprinkler Corp. v. Erie Ins. Exch., et al., No. 21A-CT-580, 2022 Ind. App. LEXIS 87 (Automatic Sprinkler), the Court of Appeals of Indiana (Court of Appeals) considered whether there is a privity requirement for property damage claims against contractors. The court imposed a privity requirement. The court also addressed whether a subrogation waiver in a contract with a tenant applied to damage caused by work done outside the contract, at the landlord’s request. The court held that the waiver did not apply. Continue reading
In Westfield Inc. Co. v. Ritcher, No. 20-CV-12692, 2021 U.S. Dist. Lexis 94926, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan considered whether a residential tenant was an implied co-insured on the landlord’s insurance policy, and thus shielded from a subrogation claim brought by the landlord’s carrier for fire damage caused by the tenant’s negligence. The court found that the tenant was an implied co-insured on the landlord’s insurance policy, but only with regards to the apartment that the tenant leased. The tenant was not shielded from claims for damage to the rest of the building, the contents of other residents and the landlord’s rental loss income. Continue reading
Pursuant to the Sutton Doctrine, first announced in Sutton v. Jondahl, 532 P.2d 478 (Okla. Ct. App. 1975), some jurisdictions consider a tenant a coinsured of its landlord absent an express agreement to the contrary. In Ro v. Factory Mut. Ins. Co., No. 2019-0620, 2021 N.H. LEXIS 34 (Mar. 10, 2021), the Supreme Court of New Hampshire held that the Sutton Doctrine, adopted by New Hampshire in Cambridge Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Crete, 846 A.2d 521 (N.H. 2004), extends to resident students in a college dormitory. Thus, absent specific language to the contrary, a student is an implied coinsured under the fire insurance policy issued for his or her dormitory. Continue reading
In Travelers Indem. Co. of Am. v. Schwarz Props., L.L.C., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18176, the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina considered whether the lease between a commercial tenant and its landlord barred the tenant’s insurance carrier from subrogating against the landlord for damages to the tenant’s goods. The court found that the tenant’s carrier could not subrogate against the landlord because the lease clearly and explicitly stated that the landlord was not responsible for the tenant’s property. In addition, the lease required the tenant to insure its own property and to hold the landlord harmless for any damage to the tenant’s goods. This case establishes that, in North Carolina, negligence claims between a landlord and tenant may be barred if the lease includes clear and explicit exculpatory and indemnification provisions. Continue reading
In Joella v. Cole, 2019 PA Super. 313, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently considered whether a tenant, alleged by the landlord’s property insurance carrier to have carelessly caused a fire, was an implied co-insured on the landlord’s policy. The court found that the tenant was an implied co-insured because the lease stated that the landlord would procure insurance for the building, which created a reasonable expectation that the tenant would be a co-insured under the policy. Since the tenant was an implied co-insured on the policy, the insurance carrier could not maintain a subrogation action against the tenant. This case confirms that Pennsylvania follows a case-by-case approach when determining whether a tenant was an implied co-insured on a landlord’s insurance policy. Continue reading
In Western Heritage Ins. Co. v. Frances Todd, Inc. 2019 Cal. App. Lexis 299, the Court of Appeals of California, First Appellate District, addressed whether a commercial condominium association’s carrier could subrogate against the tenants (aka lessees) of one of its member unit owners. After examining the condominium association’s declarations, as well as the lease terms between the owner and the lessees, the court held that the association’s carrier could not subrogate against the lessees because they were implied co-insureds on the policy. To reach its decision, the court explained that an insurer steps into the shoes of its insured, not the party with whom it is in privity. Although the first-party property portion of the association’s insurance policy did not, as required by the association’s declarations, have the owner listed as an additional named insured, the court held that it would be inequitable to treat the association as the sole insured for purposes of determining Western Heritage’s right to bring a subrogation action. Continue reading
In Youell v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 2018 Ind. App. LEXIS 497 (2018), the Court of Appeals of Indiana considered whether a landlord’s carrier could bring a subrogation claim against a commercial tenant for fire-related damages when the lease, which did not reference subrogation, explicitly required the landlord to maintain fire insurance coverage for the leased premises. The court held that subrogation was barred because the provision requiring the landlord to maintain fire insurance established an agreement to provide both parties with the benefits of insurance. The Youell case establishes that, in Indiana, if the lease explicitly states that the landlord will maintain fire casualty insurance for the building, the lease evidences an agreement by the parties to shift the risk of loss to the insurer. This agreement bars a landlord’s insurance carrier from subrogating against a commercial tenant in the event of a casualty. Continue reading