Theft is one of the few insurance claims that is based on the actions of another individual. Most claims are predicated on events that are outside the control of the homeowner, such as hurricanes and windstorms. Due to the human component of theft, if and to what extent a policyholder must prove intent in a theft claim can change dramatically depending on the policy language.
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After the rain finally stopped falling in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, many homeowners removed personal property from their homes, generally to permit it to dry in the sun. Unfortunately, while we saw many examples of humanity’s best side during Harvey, there remain those who cannot resist the temptation to steal from those who have been hurt by a hurricane.
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When insurers investigate insurance claims and suspect that something about the claim is not quite right, they often assign special investigation units evaluate whether the claim lacks merit or is otherwise fraudulent. In Young v. Progressive Casualty Insurance Company,1 a federal district court in California recently upheld an insurer’s denial of its insured’s claim for the theft of his motor home based on the policy’s fraud and misrepresentation provisions. The court’s decision was based primarily on the cell phone records of the insured’s son.
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The Arizona Court of Appeals recently overturned a trial court’s dismissal of an insured’s bad faith case stemming from a disagreement with an insurance company over coverage for a stolen baseball card collection.1 As a kid who grew up collecting baseball cards, I took particular interest in this case.
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Often, your insurance policy will protect your property from loss by burglary, larceny, and other types of offenses. However, policies also contain numerous exclusions so it is important to read the small type in these policies because insurance companies often narrow these common-law offenses by placing certain requirements on the activity. For instance, the policy may require entry by the wrongdoer with force and violence greater than that employed in any breaking to effect an entry.1 This technicality could mean the difference between a covered loss vs. an out of pocket loss.
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Many insureds feel that by paying a high premium and having a good relationship with their insurance broker, they should have good insurance or better than average coverage. Relationships and continued service creates a bond and trust between broker and buyer.

However, it is still critical that the insured review and read the insurance policy. Reading insurance policies isn’t thrilling like a chapter out of a David Baldacci novel, but you can ask your broker better questions and give specific instructions in a knowledgeable manner when you fully understand your current coverage.


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Ever wonder what is in thieves and criminals minds when they are rummaging through stuff to either steal or destroy property? One recent Connecticut case, Mercedes Zee Corp. v. Seneca Insurance Company,1 involving the distinction between theft and vandalism would leave jurors to decipher the criminal mind and determine whether the motive of criminals was to act as thieves or vandals. The distinction is critical to coverage in many property insurance policies.


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The last few weeks the world has turned its attention to the Puna lava flow on the big island of Hawai’i. Two weeks ago I visited this subject as the ‘a’a (creeping) lava neared the town of Pahoa and the questions of whether the damages would be covered under a fire claim or an earth movement policy began to emerge. This week, the lava has reached Pahoa and residents are ordered to evacuate. As of October 27, 2014, the lava has reached within 100 feet of the first home of Pahoa in its path towards the ocean. The photos of the devastation are dramatic and since there has been a moratorium on raising policy limits or even purchasing earth movement policies for at least a month, the citizens of Pahoa will find that their insurance policies have severe limitations on recovery. Although many homes will burn due to the excessive heat that ensues before lava actually reaches it, the alarming new claim hitting the news is that for those who have already evacuated, claims of looting are emerging. These theft claims would appear to be, at first blush, a claim that is separate and apart from that of fire or land movement of the lava itself.


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An order was recently handed down in Colorado federal court interpreting a policy theft exclusion.1 The plaintiff owned and insured a manufacturing facility. The policy provided coverage for damage caused by vandalism or malicious mischief, defined as “the willful and malicious damage to or destruction of the property covered.” It excluded coverage for loss “by pilferage, theft, burglary or larceny, except this Company shall be liable for willful damage to the building(s) covered caused by burglars in gaining entrance to or exit from the building(s) or any part of the building(s).”

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