Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Dispute Under Homeowner's Policy Allowed to Proceed to Jury


In the case of Bloxham v. Allstate Ins. Co., No. 3:19-CV-00481 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 16, 2020, Mehalchick, M.J.), Federal Magistrate District Court Judgment, Karoline Mehalchick, denied the carrier’s Motion for Summary Judgment in a breach of contract action arising out of a dispute under a homeowner’s insurance policy. 

According to the Opinion, after the Plaintiff sustained an accidental fire loss to his home and personal property, the carrier denied payment under the insurance policy on the grounds that the Plaintiff did not reside at the subject property and that the Plaintiff and/or the Plaintiff’s representatives allegedly provided material misrepresentations to the Defendant-carrier about residency. 

In opposition, the Plaintiff asserted that he did reside at the subject property and that no material misrepresentations were made as to the residency, ownership, or as to the condition of the property. 

Federal Magistrate Judge Mehalchick provided a thorough analysis of Pennsylvania case law on the definition of “residence” and concluded that the evidence presented in this case was sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to conclude that the Plaintiff did reside at the property at the time of the fire. As such, the carrier’s motion for summary judgment was denied in this regard. 

The court also reviewed the elements of a claim of misrepresentation relative to an insurance policy. After reviewing the same, the court found that the carrier failed to establish that the parties at issue had  knowingly made any false statements with regards to residency. It was also noted that the carrier failed to show that any such statements were made with a deliberate intent to deceive the carrier.

Also, given that the question as to whether the insured resided at the property was left for the jury’s determination, the court found that the carrier could not establish, at this stage of the litigation, whether any alleged misrepresentation about the insured’s residency was false. 

As such, summary judgment was also denied on the issue of allegations of material misrepresentations with regards to the policy. 

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Lee Applebaum of the Philadelphia law firm of Fineman Krekstein & Harris and writer of the excellent Pennsylvania and New Jersey Insurance Bad Faith Case Law blog for bringing this case to my attention. 

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