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. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

  2. What a fine example of the best of the Hoosier tradition! How sad that the AP has to include partisan snark in the obit for this great American patriot and adventurer.

  3. Why are all these lawyers yakking to the media about pending matters? Trial by media? What the devil happened to not making extrajudicial statements? The system is falling apart.

  4. It is a sad story indeed as this couple has been only in survival mode, NOT found guilty with Ponzi, shaken down for 5 years and pursued by prosecution that has been ignited by a civil suit with very deep pockets wrenched in their bitterness...It has been said that many of us are breaking an average of 300 federal laws a day without even knowing it. Structuring laws, & civilForfeiture laws are among the scariest that need to be restructured or repealed . These laws were initially created for drug Lords and laundering money and now reach over that line. Here you have a couple that took out their own money, not drug money, not laundering. Yes...Many upset that they lost money...but how much did they make before it all fell apart? No one ask that question? A civil suit against Williams was awarded because he has no more money to fight...they pushed for a break in order...they took all his belongings...even underwear, shoes and clothes? who does that? What allows that? Maybe if you had the picture of him purchasing a jacket at the Goodwill just to go to court the next day...his enemy may be satisfied? But not likely...bitterness is a master. For happy ending lovers, you will be happy to know they have a faith that has changed their world and a solid love that many of us can only dream about. They will spend their time in federal jail for taking their money from their account, but at the end of the day they have loyal friends, a true love and a hope of a new life in time...and none of that can be bought or taken That is the real story.

  5. Could be his email did something especially heinous, really over the top like questioning Ind S.Ct. officials or accusing JLAP of being the political correctness police.

ADVERTISEMENT