Will A Massachusetts Homeowners Insurance Policy Protect My Other Properties?
Not generally. You must insure each property as a typical homeowner’s insurance policy or apartment policy insured that property alone. However, and there’s always an exclusion or interpretation based on the facts of the case and the specific policy, sometimes it’s the negligence of the homeowner that is the issue, and that may trigger insurance coverage at another property or elsewhere.
Insured Massachusetts Property Triggers Insurance Coverage for Negligence in Maine
In July 2014, four young adults went to a cabin in Byron, Maine to celebrate a 22nd birthday. The homeowner’s two kids and two friends travelled from Braintree, Massachusetts to Maine where the family had a small “camp”. Apparently, to run the refrigerator, they started the generator INSIDE and the carbon monoxide from the running generator killed all four, ages 18-23. At the time investigators arrived the generator was not running and out of fuel, but in the on position.
The families of the other two young adults file a wrongful death claim in Massachusetts alleging that the homeowners, the parents who were grieving the loss of their own two deceased young adults, were negligent and responsible for the deaths. Their injury attorney’s goal was to trigger the homeowner’s insurance for the Braintree home since the Maine cabin had no insurance coverage. The victim’s attorneys argued that since the parents knew, or should have known, that the generator was potentially dangerous, they should have warned their children not to use it, or how to use it.
The Court found that the since the generator was portable and not hardwired and that the homeowners had not instructed their children as to how to safely use the generator, the negligence was covered by the family homeowner insurance in Massachusetts; it was not “arising out of a premises” or “arising out of a condition of a premises” but was the instructions, or failure to instruct, regarding the generator. That is, it was the failure by the homeowners as to how to use a portable device that triggers their insurance. It was not caused by the cabin’s inadequate ventilation, which the insurance attorneys argued, because no building would have been properly ventilated for this generator, the Court held. Thus, “this accident – however tragic – could have happened anywhere and did not arise out of a condition of the uninsured premises.” The decision analogized their reasoning to a dog bite case – the dog, which travelled from the family from an insured home to their uninsured home, was still covered by the homeowner’s insurance because it did not arise out of a condition on the uninsured premises.
The wrongful death case, recently handed down by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Green Mountain Insurance Company v. Mark Wakelin (SJC-12760 December 6, 2019) gives Massachusetts homeowners a warning, and potential victims of homeowner’s negligence some solid ground to work from in injuries that are sustained outside of the home and premises of homeowners. In fact, the Court points out that had the homeowner’s lent the portable generator to a neighbor and failed to properly instruct the neighbor as to it’s safe use, they could be held liable for injuries in that instance and that homeowner’s insurance would have to cover that loss.
Note, the Supreme Judicial Court was not deciding that the homeowners were negligent, but that there could be a trial in the Massachusetts Superior Court for a jury to determine if they were negligent. The SJC decision was that the insurance company had to defend and pay if there was a finding by a trial court.
Burns & Jain Represents Wrongful Death and Injury Victims Caused by Negligent Massachusetts Homeowners
Whether it’s on the premises of a home, or because of the negligence of a homeowner, the insurance policy of the homeowner, or apartment owner, may kick in and cover injuries and wrongful death.
In the Green Mountain Insurance case, the victims’ lawyers were tenacious in representing their clients – the families of the victims. The insurance companies can, and will, fight every case. First, they try to show no injury, or that the injury was minimal. In a wrongful death case, or serious injury case they don’t have that argument so they move on to show no causation – that the injuries were not caused by negligence of the homeowner. Or that there was no insurance.
If you, or a loved one, were the victim of negligence and the negligent party has homeowner’s insurance, call Burns & Jain for a free evaluation of your case. You need an experienced trial attorney to review the facts, aggressively fight the insurance trial lawyers, and give justice for the victim of injury or wrongful death.
Call 1-617-227-7423 for a free consultation with Burns & Jain.