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Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Keith Plucker, Jan 9, 2006.
From the article...
Karma, it is a bitch.
This homeowner wasn't Nathan Lane or Lee Evens by any chance was it?
And to think I thought having cats would solve a rodent problem... why didn't I think fire or high explosives?
What an idiot!
Hopefully his homeowners policy has an "acts of mouse" clause.
I wonder how the insurance companies deal with that?
It sounds to me like the guy burned down his house by lighting a pile of leaves that were too close and he manufactured the mouse story to cover his tracks. How he would manage to catch the mouse alive and get it to the fire is beyond me. I've seen (and laughed out loud at the concept of) humanitarian mouse traps that make it possible to catch the critters alive, but I have a hard time believing that somebody with such a trap would toss the live mouse into a fire pit.
Determining whether particular damage to property constitutes vandalism or malicious mischief, as those terms are used in an insurance policy covering the property, can be elusive since, on the one hand, even modern definitions of these terms require some element of intent or willfulness while, on the other hand, the persons causing the injury are usually unknown or, if known, unlikely to be cooperative in establishing their destructive intent or ill will. The courts are thus frequently left to try to infer the intent of the perpetrator of the damage from the surrounding circumstances and to determine whether the mental state demonstrated is legally sufficient to establish vandalism or malicious mischief.
At one extreme this conclusion may be clear-cut. In Montgomery v. United Servs. Auto. Ass'n, for example, the court stated that no matter how broadly vandalism or malicious mischief are defined in modern usage, damage caused by a bobcat to the insured premises could not constitute vandalism or malicious mischief because a wild animal simply could not form the intent necessary for its actions to come within the definition of these terms.
The vandalism provision of an insurance policy, which defined vandalism or malicious mischief to mean only the willful and malicious damage to, or destruction of, the property covered, was held by the court in Stack v. Hanover Ins. Co., not to cover damage which occurred when a deer entered the insureds' home by crashing through a sliding glass door and exited by crashing through a bedroom window. Noting that the popular meaning of vandalism is the intentional and malicious destruction of property, the court held that such an act requires a human mind capable of forming the requisite intent of committing a wrongful act, resulting in senseless destruction or damage to property either public or private. The court held that an animal, such as a deer, to the human mind, and in law, is incapable of forming an intent to commit a wrongful act or to act maliciously, but rather an animal that is nonhuman acts or reacts instinctively without knowledge of right or wrong as humanly defined. In the popular connotation of vandalism, the court held, it is clear that the destruction of plaintiff's property by the independent action of the deer in this case did not fall within the terms of the policy of insurance.
Damage to property caused by a deer which entered the apartment of an insured was held by the court in Roselli v. Royal Ins. Co. of America, not to be covered under the insured's policy where the policy in question stated that coverage extended to direct physical loss of personal property caused by the listed perils, which included vandalism or malicious mischief on which coverage the insured sought to rely. Acknowledging that modern definitions of vandalism include even ignorant destruction of property, the court stated that even the expanded, popular definitions require the destruction to be in conscious or intentional disregard of the right of another. Likewise, the court continued, the definition of malicious mischief, even if broadly read, presupposes an intentional act. Consequently, the court concluded, vandalism or malicious mischief must be perpetrated by a human actor.
But what about damage other than vandalism? What about termites that go unoticed and weaken a structure? Is that covered by insurance?
Doesn't insurance allow for such disasters? What about an animal getting into a furnace and causing the furnace to errupt or break down, casuing damage to the house? What do you claim when a weakened tree collapses on your home?
I can see how that doesn't fall under "vandalism" as well as it doesn't fall under "Natural Disaster", but there has to be something in the policy that covers these kinds of incidents...providing you can prove it...I never though about Carl's interpretation
Damage to insured property inflicted by particular insects or wildlife is not excluded from all-risk policy coverage under an exclusion of loss or damage caused by vermin, the courts ruled in the following cases, finding that the term "vermin" did not apply to carpet beetles, squirrels, raccoons, and the like.
Carpet beetle damage to antique fabrics was covered under the insured's all-risk personal property floater policy although the policy excluded losses caused by "deterioration, moth, vermin, and inherent vice," the court ruled in Sincoff v Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co. The court noted that experts well versed in entomology disagreed as to the meaning of the word "vermin" and dictionaries contained varying connotations, some indicating that vermin included all bothersome insects, others limiting the term to parasitic insects, and the term thus was obviously capable of more than one meaning. This being so, the doubt in the exclusory clause was to be resolved in favor of the insured, the court stated, explaining that the burden was on the insurer to establish that the term "vermin" not only was susceptible of being defined by the average man as including carpet beetles, but that such a definition was the only one that could fairly be placed thereon; it was not sufficient for the insurer to demonstrate that a purchaser of the policy involved herein might have construed "vermin" to include carpet beetles but the insurer, to derive any benefit from the exclusory clause, was obliged to show (1) that it would be unreasonable for the average man reading the policy to conclude that nonparasitic carpet beetles were not vermin, and (2) that that construction was the only one that fairly could be placed on the policy. Declaring that the insurer was unable to do this, the court pointed out that this was an expensive all-risk policy covering personal property of many varieties, much of which obviously was extremely valuable, and thus a vague exclusion should not be permitted to prevent indemnity. The trial court had found an ambiguity and the record supported that determination, the court concluded.
An invasion of raccoons that damaged the structure of the insured's home was covered under the defendant insurer's all-risk policy notwithstanding an exclusionary clause listing birds, domestic animals, termites and other insects, and vermin, the court ruled in Umanoff v Nationwide Mut. Fire Ins. Noting that the policy was issued subsequent to an opinion of the state Court of Appeals in which the court stated that the term "vermin" was capable of more than one meaning, the court observed that the term "vermin" had many definitions and a variety of connotations and was therefore capable of more than one meaning. This being so, the court reasoned, the doubt in the exclusionary clause must be resolved in favor of the insured since the burden was on the defendant insurer to establish that the term "vermin" not only was susceptible of being defined by the average man to include raccoons but that such definition was the only one that could "fairly be placed thereon." The court observed that, in order for the insurer to derive any benefit from the exclusionary clause it was obligated to show that it would be unreasonable for the average man reading the policy to conclude that raccoons were not vermin and that its own construction was the only one that fairly could be placed on the policy. The insurer had not demonstrated this, the court declared, adding that the word in the exclusionary clause was ambiguous and capable of a definition that would not include raccoons. Pointing out that ambiguities were construed against the insurer, particularly when found in an exclusionary clause, the court concluded that the insured was not precluded from recovering for damage by raccoons because of the exclusion with respect to vermin. The court stated that, additionally, including domestic animals as one of the perils that were excluded implied that nondomestic animals such as raccoons were covered. Since this portion of the policy covering real property was an all-risk type of policy, a vague exclusion should not be permitted to prevent indemnity, the court concluded, granting the insured's motion for summary judgment in regard to loss to real property.
Losses caused by a squirrel were not excluded from the insured's policy covering all risks of physical loss, the court ruled in Jones v American Economy Ins. Co., notwithstanding an exclusion of loss caused by, inter alia, vermin, termites, moths, or other insects. The court explained that the word "vermin" was not defined in the policy, and "vermin" had no established meaning in the law of insurance and it was thus necessary to determine whether the term had a readily ascertainable meaning in the plain ordinary sense of the word. The word was defined as "small, common, harmful or objectionable animals, such as lice or fleas, that were difficult to control, birds and animals that prey on game, an offensive person." The same source defined squirrel as "any of small or medium sized rodents as any of numerous new or old world arboreal forms having long bushy tails and strong hind legs." Noting that it was apparent that the definition of "vermin" was very broad, covering entities as diverse as insects, animals, and persons, the court stated that the few cases that the court had found in other jurisdictions were divided on this question and thus the court would conclude that the term did not have a simple, plain, and generally accepted meaning and that it was susceptible of more than one reasonable interpretation. The court held that the term was ambiguous, explaining that when a term used in an exclusionary clause was ambiguous, the courts would apply the interpretation that permitted recovery, and would not write a limitation into a policy where none existed. The court held that the term "vermin" did not include a squirrel, and thus the damage done to the insured's home by a squirrel was not an excluded loss under the terms of the policy.
Give that man a cigar!
I heard a TV report today that indicated local authorities believe that the pile of leaves is what caused the house fire.
I news station interviewed the mouse and asked why he went along with the hoax. The mouse indicated that the man had promised to forge some documents to get him into a free government cheese program.
According to this item, the man's story was indeed widely questioned, but fire officials apparently believe it and have said that their report will reflect that.
What do you think started the fire in the first place
Snopes.com's comment on the story (or, rather, stories):