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COA: Insurer has no liability for dog bite injuries

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The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld summary judgment in favor of Auto-Owners Insurance Co. on the issue of whether it had liability to cover the damages sought by the parents of a boy bit by a dog on the insured’s property. The person residing at the home, whose dog bit the boy, was not considered an insured under the policy.

Ginger Hawk owned the house in Gas City and had it insured by Auto-Owners. Michael Carl, Hawk’s cousin, lived in the home. Hawk testified that she would drive by the home a few times a year but never went inside the house. Braydon Didion was allegedly bit in the face by Carl’s dog while Braydon played in the yard in front of the home. Bradyon’s parents sued Carl in July 2008 and added Hawk to the complaint. The Didions received default judgment. Hawk did not notify Auto-Owners about the incident and lawsuit until July 2009 when she first learned of the lawsuit after discovering a lien on the house and then speaking to Carl.

The trial court granted the insurer’s motion for summary judgment finding Carl did not live with Hawk at the time of the incident and he is not an insured under the policy.

The Didions argued that since Carl is a blood relative of Hawk and he “resided” with her in the Gas City house, he is an “insured” under the policy.

“… we do not believe that any ordinary policyholder of reasonable intelligence would understand an absentee landlord who does no more than drive by a house every so often to ‘reside’ in that house,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote in David Didion and Kristi Didion as Parents and Legal Guardians of Brayden Didion v. Auto-Owners Insurance Company, 27A02-1303-PL-232.

The majority also addressed whether Auto-Owners received adequate notice of the loss, which it affirmed it did not.

“We have little trouble concluding that the length of delay in this case was unreasonable. The facts of this case amply support our conclusion: in the over one year that passed between the Loss and Ginger’s notification to her agent, the Didions’ lawsuit had not only been filed but had already proceeded to default judgment regarding liability and damages,” Bradford wrote.

Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote in his concurring opinion that the appeals court should not have looked at the question of the timeliness of the notice because the lack of coverage inquiry is dispositive.
 

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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