Blanchard v. Fidelity National Property and Casualty Insurance Co., et al.
No. 09-352, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44748
(W.D. La. May 5, 2010)

The Blanchards owned a trailer and an apartment, located at 7529 Ling Road in Lake Charles. They lived in the trailer and rented the apartment. On April 11, 2006, Wesley Blanchard applied for a Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP) on the buildings with Fidelity, listing the mailing address for the trailer as 7529A Ling Road and the mailing address for the apartment as 7529B Ling Road. Even though the two structures had separate mailing addresses, there was only one mailbox at the property. Fidelity issued two separate SFIPs for the properties.

In late 2006, the Blanchards moved to 125 Borne Lane in Lake Charles. They filed a change of address with the United States Post Office, but did not notify Fidelity that they moved. On February 19, 2008, Fidelity received a notice from the Post Office of a request for a change of address for 7529 Ling Rd. The mailing address for 7529A was changed on the SFIP to the Borne address, but the mailing address for 7529B Ling Road was not changed.

On November 30, 2006, the Blanchards contacted Fidelity to have and additional mortgagee added to the SFIP for the apartment with a mailing address of 7529B Ling Rd. Fidelity mailed the Notice of Revised Declar-tions was mailed to the 7529B Ling Rd. address and received no correspondence from the Post Office that the mail was undeliverable.

On February 12, 2007, Fidelity mailed a renewal notice for the apartment to the 7529B Ling Road address, and again, Fidelity received no correspondence that the notice was undeliverable. On April 5, 2007, Fidelity mailed the declaration’s page for the apartment to the 7529B Ling Road address, and, again, the correspondence was not returned to Fidelity as undeliverable.
On February 14, 2008, Fidelity mailed a copy of a renewal notice for the apartment to 7529B Ling Road. It was not returned as undeliverable. On March 26, 2008, Fidelity mailed a copy of a Renewal Reminder Notice to the 7529B Ling Road address and, again, there was no indication that it was not delivered.

On April 10, 2008, Fidelity mailed an Expiration Notice to 7529B Ling Road. No document was returned as undeliverable. The SFIP for 7529B Ling Road lapsed on April 10, 2008 because Fidelity did not receive the premium.

On September 18, 2008, the apartment was flooded as a result of Hurricane Ike. Two months later, the Blanchards sent a premium payment to Fidelity, in an attempt to retroactively pay the premium on the lapsed policy. Fidelity cashed the check, but then attempted to refund it. The Blanchards refused to accept the refund and demanded that the SFIP be retroactively renewed. Fidelity refused, and the Blanchards filed suit.

Standard Flood Insurance policies are strictly construed and enforced. The SFIP requires that the insured furnish accurate information. Therefore, Fidelity argued it was the Blanchard’s duty to notify Fidelity of any inaccuracy or any change of address listed on the application and subsequent declaration pages. The Blanchards argued that Fidelity received notice from the U.S. Post Office of a request of change of address for 7529 Ling Road on February 19, 2008, and that had Fidelity used due diligence, the Blanchards would have received the notices and paid their premiums.

The Court sided with Fidelity. While Fidelity received notice of the change of address for the 7529 Ling Road property, it did not receive notice of a change of address for the 7529B Ling Road property. The application listed 7529B Ling Road as the proper address, and none of the correspondence Fidelity sent to that address was returned as undeliverable. Because the Blanchards failed to pay the premium on the property, the policy lapsed, and it was not covered.

Read the full opinion here.