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Husband can’t recover insurance proceeds after wife burns down house

December 4, 2013

The Indiana Court of Appeals Wednesday held that when an insurance company includes an explicit exclusion in its policy to cover loss resulting from an intentional act by a co-insured, the court will enforce that exclusion. Because a man’s policy included such an exclusion, he can’t recover insurance proceeds after his wife burnt down their home on purpose.

Callie Deeter, believing her husband Rick was having an affair, intentionally set fire to their home. The Deeters had a homeowners insurance policy with Indiana Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. insuring their home for $124,000. The policy contained an exclusion for intentional loss committed by an insured.  

Farmers refused to pay on the insurance policy because Callie Deeter intentionally burned down the home, thus it fell under the intentional loss exclusion of the insurance policy. Rick Deeter filed a claim for insurance proceeds, and both parties sought summary judgment. The trial court ruled in favor of the insurer.

The Court of Appeals rejected Rick Deeter’s arguments that the innocent spouse rule should apply in this case and that the policy exclusion shouldn’t apply because his wife did not intend to burn the house down to collect the insurance money.

“The undisputed designated evidence shows that Callie purposefully and intentionally burnt down her home, and Farmers was within the scope of its contractual rights to deny the Deeters’ insurance claim in accordance with the intentional loss exclusion contained in the policy,” Judge John Baker wrote in Rick Deeter v. Indiana Farmers Mutual Insurance Company, 43A04-1305-PL-229.
 

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