Peter J. Tomasek, one of Collins Einhorn Farrell PC’s appellate attorneys, authored an amicus brief on the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel’s behalf in support of the defendant-insurer’s brief on appeal in Yu v Farm Bureau Gen Ins Co of Mich.
This case arose out of significant water damage to a home in Portage, Michigan. The plaintiffs-insureds had moved from the Portage home more than three years earlier but didn’t inform the insurer. Because the policy provided coverage for “the dwelling on the residence premises” only (and expressly precluded coverage for vacant or unoccupied dwellings), the insurer denied the claim.
After the trial court dismissed the insureds’ lawsuit for the same reasons, a panel of the Court of Appeals reversed. Two of the three judges held that the doctrine of equitable estoppel required the insurer to provide coverage that is contrary to the express terms of the insurance contract. To support this conclusion, those judges relied on the fact that the insurer had paid a claim for minor water damage a few months earlier, in February 2013. According to those judges, the fact that the insureds mentioned that they were in the process of moving in February—even though they had moved from the Portage home in 2010—meant that the insurer knew or should have known that the house was vacant or unoccupied in December.
The Supreme Court granted the insurer’s application for leave to appeal. In the MDTC’s amicus brief, Peter argues that equitable estoppel can require an insurer to provide coverage beyond the express terms of an insurance contract only in one circumstance—where an insurer defends an insured without reserving the right to deny coverage. The plaintiff in Yu didn’t fit within this narrow exception. So Peter argues that the Supreme Court should reverse Court of Appeals’ opinion and hold that the insurer is entitled to summary disposition.
To read the full amicus brief, click here.