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
In Amica Mutual Insurance Company v. Muldowney, 328 Conn. 428 (2018), the Connecticut Supreme Court considered whether a landlord’s insurance carrier could subrogate against the landlord’s tenants for property damage when the lease did not specifically authorize subrogation. The court held that, while subrogation was not expressly allowed, the language in the lease requiring the tenants to have liability insurance and holding them liable for damage was sufficient to overcome Connecticut’s common law presumption that a landlord’s carrier cannot subrogate against a tenant. This case emphasizes the importance of analyzing every aspect of a lease when determining the true intent of the parties with respect to subrogation. Continue reading
In Melrose Gates, LLC v. Chor Moua, et al., 875 N.W.2d 814 (Minn. 2016), the Supreme Court of Minnesota, applying the factors the court first articulated in RAM Mutual Insurance Company v. Rohde, 820 N.W.2d 1 (Minn. 2012), analyzed whether the parties to an apartment lease reasonably expected that the tenants would be liable in subrogation for fire damage caused by the tenants’ negligence. The Melrose Gates court held that, based on the language of the lease, the type of insurance the parties purchased, and the fact that the building was a multi-unit structure, the parties intended that the tenants would be responsible for damage to their leased unit but not for damage to other property. Thus, while the landlord’s insurer could recover the amount it paid to repair the damage to the tenants’ unit, it could not recover the amount it paid to repair other units or common areas of the building.