ILNews

Estate entitled to hearing on cause of fire

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A plaintiff is entitled to a hearing on whether vandalism caused the fire at an unoccupied home, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today. The District Court never made a finding on the investigation that indicated it may have been burglars who started the fire.

In the Estate of Wavie Luster v. Allstate Insurance Co., No. 09-2483, Rick Gikas, personal representative of the estate, appealed summary judgment for the insurance company on his breach of insurance contract suit. Allstate insured Wavie Luster's home. The widow was injured in a fall and moved into an extended-care facility in October 2001. Gikas became her power of attorney and told the insurer to bill the premiums to his law office. She never returned the house and died nearly five years later. Three months after her death, a fire caused extensive damage to the unoccupied house. Gikas submitted a claim on behalf of the estate. Allstate then discovered the home had been empty that entire time and denied the claim. Allstate continued to bill Gikas, and Gikas paid claims for two more years after the fire until Allstate cancelled the policy retroactively to November 2001 and returned the premiums paid since then.

Part of the policy says there's no coverage for any loss consisting of or caused by any substantial change or increase in hazard, if it's within the control of the insured; and there's no coverage for loss caused by vandalism if the dwelling is vacant or unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days immediately prior to the vandalism. The policy also requires an insured to notify the company of any change in occupancy in the dwelling.

The District judge ruled the duty of notification had been breached but based his grant of summary judgment on the increase in hazard portion of the policy by leaving the house unoccupied.

Based on Allstate's policy terms, if a homeowner went on a 31-day trip and a fire occurred during that time, the insured wouldn't be covered. It implies if you are away a lot, your coverage lapses. There is also the chance a homeowner put in special precautions to keep the house safe while away.

"There is no rule that moving out of a house per se increases the hazards against which the insurance company has insured you," wrote Judge Richard Posner.

Gikas is entitled to a remand because it's unknown whether vandalism caused the loss. Allstate is also entitled to a hearing on the applicability of the vandalism exception should the hazard exclusion be found inapplicable.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Today, I want to use this opportunity to tell everyone about Dr agbuza of agbuzaodera(at)gmail. com, on how he help me reunited with my husband after 2 months of divorce.My husband divorce me because he saw another woman in his office and he said to me that he is no longer in love with me anymore and decide to divorce me.I seek help from the Net and i saw good talk about Dr agbuza and i contact him and explain my problem to him and he cast a spell for me which i use to get my husband back within 2 days.am totally happy because there is no reparations and side-effect. If you need his help Email him at agbuzaodera(at)gmail. com

  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

ADVERTISEMENT