MAY 2013 BAD FAITH CASES: COURT OVERTURNS TRIAL COURT’S GRANT OF SUMMARY JUDGMENT BECAUSE INNOCENT SPOUSE WAS VICTIM OF ABUSE, REMANDS FOR DETERMINATION OF BAD FAITH (Superior Court)

In Lynn v. Nationwide Ins. Co., the court heard an insured’s appeal from the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of the carrier, ruling that the insured’s policy had been cancelled. The case arose after the insured’s estranged wife, a co-insured, attempted to cancel an insurance policy on their home. The wife later attempted to burn the home down with her and her children inside. The children escaped and the plan was foiled, but home and its contents were damaged. The wife later pleaded guilty to several criminal charges.
After the incident, the husband reported the damage to the carrier, but was denied because his estranged wife had allegedly cancelled the policy. The insured filed suit against the carrier, alleging breach of contract and bad faith. The carrier filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that the policy was cancelled, the damage was excluded under an intentional acts provision and that the insured concealed an inventory of items in the home. The trial court granted the motion and the insured appealed.
On appeal, the court ruled the trial court had improperly interpreted a Pennsylvania statute which prohibits the denial of claims by an innocent co-insured where the loss was caused by the intentional acts of another insured. The legislature passed this statute to protect the victims of abuse from the denial of coverage based upon intentional acts exclusions contained within an insurance policy. The court also ruled that the estranged wife’s attempts to cancel the policy were invalid. Lastly, the court found a material issue of fact with respect to the insured’s alleged concealment of certain facts.
As such, the court remanded the case for a determination of the remaining issues, including the carrier’s alleged bad faith denial of coverage.
Date of Decision: May 1, 2013
Lynn v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 2013 PA Super 101 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2013) (Donohue, J.)