Articles Posted in Insurance Issues

Recently, a Massachusetts appeals court affirmed a lower court’s judgment in a dispute between a property owner and an insurance company. The facts indicate that the homeowner purchased insurance for a property he owned in Massachusetts. The terms of the insurance policy included an agreement that the insurance company would protect the homeowner from property damage and personal injury claims against him. However, the agreement provided an exclusion for bodily injury claims stemming from the homeowner’s properties that were not included in the policy.

The man filed a claim with his insurance company when his two children and their friends died at an uninsured cabin he owned in Maine. The property was seasonal, and was generally only used during the summer months. The man obtained a building permit for this property but did not apply for or receive an occupancy certificate. The property was “off the grid” and only had a wood stove and a microwave. The man used a generator on the property when he needed to charge his power tools. During these instances, he would sometimes power the microwave, as the generator was already in use.

On one occasion, two of his children and their two friends went to the cabin to celebrate a birthday. After they arrived, they plugged a mini refrigerator into the generator to cool their drinks. However, they did not open any windows, and they all died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The families of his children’s s friends filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the man, claiming that he was negligent for failing to teach his children how to use the generator safely. The court awarded damages to both families and, in response, the man filed a claim with his insurance company.

In a recent Massachusetts insurance dispute, the state’s high court found that consent-to-settle clauses are enforceable and do not violate public policy. The decision came in response to an engineering malpractice lawsuit that Massachusetts homeowners filed against a professional home engineer.

According to the court’s opinion, the homeowners hired the engineer to design and construct portions of their new home. The engineer signed an agreement with the town but underestimated the number of loads in his calculations. The engineer filed several inaccurate control reports and falsely certified that they complied with the applicable building codes. Shortly after construction, the defects became apparent, and after a confrontation, the engineer admitted to his miscalculations. The homeowners filed several claims against the engineer and his insurer.

The insurance company and the engineer had an agreement that the insurance company would not settle any claims without his consent. The homeowners asked for over $1 million in damages, but the engineer refused to settle for more than $100,000, despite the insurance company advising him that he faced a seven-figure settlement. The engineer was found liable for $460,000, which was paid partially by his insurance company. The homeowners then amended their complaint against the insurance company, arguing that they violated a state law that requires prompt settlements.

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