In a recent case,1 a federal appeals court addressed the issue of whether fire damage to a vacant dwelling from an arsonist was considered distinct from vandalism, so as to not implicate an exclusion within a homeowners insurance policy. In that case, Wells Fargo Bank owned an insurance policy on an abandoned house that an arsonist set ablaze. The insured sued its insurer after the insurer refused to indemnify the insured for the loss, relying on a policy provision exclusion for damage caused by “vandalism or malicious mischief” after the property had been vacant for more than thirty consecutive days.
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Last month, I spoke at the First Party Claims Conference in Rhode Island on the topic of the Standard Fire Insurance Policy, which 165-line form provides coverage for direct loss by fire and lightning.1 My presentation presumed that everyone knows what a fire is, myself included. I changed my mind though after reading the Connecticut federal district court’s recent opinion in National Liability & Fire Insurance Company v. Jablonowski.2
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Last week, Richard Tutwiler of Tutwiler and Associates, Matthew Garnett of Vernis and Bowling, Heather Filegar of Southern Healthy Homes, and I presented at the 2018 Windstorm Insurance Conference at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel.

Rick Tutwiler who will be the President of the Windstorm Insurance Network in 2020, wanted to expand the course offering presented this year, so we proposed a topic that had not been presented in the past: Where Wind Meets Fire: Interesting Issues in Claims Where the Wind Brings Fire, Ash, Smoke, Soot and Ash to Other Properties.
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Fires, and especially the recent California wildfires, are going to raise questions related to the long-term impact of fire, smoke, and the effects of smoke particulates on electrical gadgets, computers, and apparatus. We live in a day when computers and small computer chips are in virtually everything electrical or mechanical. It is an obvious question after a fire whether the smoke causes these fine electrical machines and gadgets to break down in the long or short term.
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Frying the turkey for Thanksgiving has become increasingly popular over other, more traditional, turkey-cooking methods. Are you considering frying your turkey bird for this upcoming Thanksgiving meal? If so, you may also want to consider the risks associated with this trending and flavorful frying technique.
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Ghost, goblins, and haunted houses are not the only scary thing homeowners should be ready for this Halloween season. Fires, theft, and vandalism are scary insurance claims that commonly haunt homeowners during this time. Fortunately, most homeowners’ policies are Halloween friendly. Here are tips to prepare for potential spooky insurance claims.
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Insurers often issue property insurance policies intended cover multiple perils (e.g. water damage and fire). While insurers often include a number of exclusions in their policies, in states with statutory standard form fire policies (such as California), insurers cannot apply exclusions that substantially vary from the terms and conditions in the standard form fire policy regarding the peril of fire.


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Going way back to the roots of insurance, fire was the peril that insurance was designed to protect. Fire damage and smoke are incredibly damaging and cause many injuries and fatalities. While our suppression efforts have a come a long way, there is still a long way for us to go with fire insurance claims being properly paid across the board.


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Motions in limine are commonly used to seek a pre-trial ruling regarding excluding inadmissible or prejudicial evidence. At the federal level, Federal Rules of Evidence (“FRE”) 103(d) and 104(c),1 402,2 403,3 and 611(a)4 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) 16(c)5 provide the underlying bases for in limine motions, though the power to rule on such motions inheres in the district court’s authority to manage the course of trials.6 Whether to grant or to deny a motion in limine falls within the broad discretion of the district court.7

The admissibility of evidence of an insured’s prior fires and prior insurance claims was the subject of a motion in limine in Chicago Import, Inc. v. American States Insurance Company,8 a case arising out of a 2007 warehouse fire alleged to have been an act of arson.


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