Liars Never Prosper No Coverage for Loss at Unidentified Property.
|BARRY ZALMA [ON MY RADAR]
Dignity Housing West is a California nonprofit corporation that provides low-income housing. Describing itself as a housing developer and listing its only premises as 200 square feet of office space, it applied for and received a commercial general liability insurance policy from Atain Specialty Insurance In Atain Specialty Insurance Company v. Dignity Housing West, Inc., a California nonprofit corporation, No. 21-15127, United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit (December 3, 2021) the Ninth Circuit dealt with a claim seeking defense and indemnity for a loss at a property not identified at the time the policy was acquired.
Though the application asked whether Dignity conducted any "lodging operations including apartments," Dignity did not disclose the three apartment buildings it owned or maintained.
After a deadly fire broke out at Dignity's apartment building on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, Dignity was named in several lawsuits by former tenants. Atain initially tendered defense to Dignity in those actions, but it subsequently withdrew.
Atain sued seeking a declaration that the policy did not cover the San Pablo building. The district court granted summary judgment in Atain's favor, concluding that the policy did not cover the apartment building and that even if it did, omissions in Dignity's application entitled Atain to rescind the policy
On Dignity's insurance application, it disclosed only 200 square feet of office space and represented it was a tenant. The Commercial General Liability Supplemental Declarations page of the policy lists that space as the only premises that Dignity owns, rents, or occupies.
A Dignity officer stated in a deposition that Dignity actually owned the building where the office was located as well as the apartment where the fire occurred.
The Ninth Circuit made clear that information in policy declarations controls the scope of insurance coverage. If the declarations indicate that the policy does not provide coverage, "no further review of the policy is necessary." [Fidelity &Deposit Co. v. Charter Oak Fire Ins. Co., 78 Cal.Rptr.2d 429, 432 (Cal.Ct.App. 1998).]
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