Brownson, PLLC is pleased to announce that Senior Litigation Attorney Joe Lulic has obtained a ruling from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of a homeowners’ insurer client for a fire loss claim. Significantly, the Court held that the insurer acted properly in denying the claim because it was improperly submitted by someone other than its direct named insured on a homeowner’s policy.
The owner of a house obtained a property insurance policy and, immediately prior to his death, executed and filed a transfer – upon – death deed to his niece. Shortly after his death, his ex-wife burned the house down. The niece filed a property insurance claim, and, upon its denial, filed a declaratory judgment action seeking insurance coverage in Minnesota state court. Joe had the case removed to federal court where Senior United States District Court Judge Donovan Frank agreed with Joe that the niece was not a named insured on the policy, and granted summary judgment to the insurer. Upon appeal, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. The Court held that the property insurance was a personal contract between the deceased homeowner and the insurer. No insurance policy provision transferred an insurable interest to the niece upon the homeowner’s death. As a result, the insurer acted properly in denying the claim.