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COA orders continuation of insurer’s case against tenant

December 19, 2012

Because Indiana law does not currently preclude a landlord’s insurer from bringing a subrogation claim against a tenant and a landlord’s complaint established a set of circumstances under which it would be entitled to relief, the Court of Appeals reversed the grant of a tenant’s motion to dismiss. The landlord’s insurer filed a subrogation action against the tenant after a fire started on her patio.

Hillary Mannia lived in Summer Place Apartments in Granger. In July 2010, a fire caused nearly $745,000 in damage at the apartments. LBM Realty, owners of the apartments, sued Mannia, alleging breach of contract and negligence in that she “carelessly and improperly disposed of smoking materials by placing same in a plastic bottle and in close proximity to the vinyl siding on the balcony patio wall of the leased premises …” or allowed guests to do the same.

Mannia filed a Trial Rule 12(B)(6) motion to dismiss LBM’s insurer’s action – which was filed in LBM’s name – to recoup the money it paid for the property damage. She wanted the trial court to adopt the “no-subrogation” or implied co-insured approach, which absent an express agreement, would find the tenant is presumed to be co-insured under the landlord’s policy. LBM claimed that the lease contained language suggesting Mannia bore the risk of the loss for her negligence.

The trial court granted her motion to dismiss, adopting the no-subrogation approach.

“Despite the current state of Indiana law that permits insurers to bring a subrogation claim against a tenant, the trial court did not test LBM’s complaint against the backdrop of the law as it existed. Instead, the trial court adopted the no-subrogation approach, thereby precluding LMB’s claims against Mannia. It seems that the trial court put the proverbial cart before the horse by first adopting a rule precluding subrogation claims against tenants and then reviewing LBM’s complaint in light of that newly adopted rule,” Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote in LBM Realty, LLC, d/b/a Summer Place Apartments v. Hillary Mannia, 71A03-1205-PL-231.

“Whether the no-subrogation approach, pro-subrogation approach, or case-by-case approach should be adopted in this State is a matter we leave for another day as the facts in this case are limited at this juncture of the proceedings and have not been developed enough to enable a meaningful review of the issue,” he continued, ordering the case to continue for further proceedings.

 

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