A Connecticut homeowner is being sued by a woman who claims she was bitten in the face by the homeowner’s dog, but the homeowner will not be compensated since his insurance agent falsely claimed on the homeowner’s application that the homeowner did not possess a dog.
Since the misstatement regarding the dog was important, Providence Mutual Fire Insurance Co. decided not to defend Antonio Laires, a Waterbury resident, in the dog bite claim. The insurer said it would not have provided coverage if it had been aware of his dog.
Laires testified before the court that his insurance agent filled out the application and that he did not notice when he digitally signed it that there were no animals on the premises. Laires maintained that he did not breach the duty to disclose material facts to the plaintiff because he did not know that the application was erroneous.
Based on this significant misstatement, U.S. District Judge Kari A. Dooley of the District of Connecticut granted Providence Mutual summary judgment last week. The judge also ruled that it was the homeowner’s duty to review the policy his agent had negotiated before signing it.
Dooley’s decision makes no suggestions or offers any view as to whether or not the insurance agent may be liable for failing to uphold the standards of care owed to Laire in light of Laire’s accusations.
In accordance with the “Special Provisions for Connecticut,” Providence Mutual will not pay out on a claim if the insured has committed fraud, made a false statement about an insurance-related matter, or failed to disclose a significant fact. A substantial representation is one that, had the insurer known the truth, would have caused it to refuse coverage under the policy.
According to the judge, if an applicant for insurance in Connecticut makes a materially false statement that they “know to be false when made,” the insurer can revoke coverage.
When an applicant notifies Providence Mutual that they keep animals or exotic pets on the premises, the company follows up with a questionnaire. Based on your responses, we will determine if you qualify for an insurance and what your premium will be.
Laires admitted in court records that he got his dog in January 2017 and had it until November 2019 (when he applied for homeowners insurance). In response to the application’s question about whether or not any animals or exotic pets were kept on the premises, the applicant wrote “N,” for “no.”
Because his insurance agent filled out the application and did not provide him with the whole document, Laires informed the court that he did not deliberately make such a deception.
He tried to convince Judge Dooley, but he was not convinced. According to Connecticut law, “the mere fact that a signer did not read the application before signing it does not constitute an innocent explanation for a misrepresentation.” She cited precedent to say that the law mandates that the insured not only answer all interrogatories in good faith but also use reasonable diligence to ensure that the replies are properly worded.
After reading and agreeing to the application’s claims, Laires signed below. A “person of mature years who can read and write, signs or accepts a formal written contract affecting his pecuniary interests, it is his duty to read it and notice of its contents will be imputed to him if he negligently fails to do so,” the judge said, “whether or not he personally reviewed the answers or checked for their accuracy is of no consequence.”
The judge also rejected his claim that his broker was to blame for the error. An insurance broker acts on behalf of the policyholder to procure coverage. She emphasized that as a result, brokers have an obligation of care to their principals.
The insurance agent signed the application, certifying that he was authorized to act on Laire’s behalf and that he had made a good faith effort to obtain the information requested. The core of an agency connection, the ruling says, is “the manifestation of consent by one person to another that the other shall act on his behalf and subject to his control and consent by the other to so act.”