“Residence Premises” Exclusion
Pik Wan Wong et al v. Integon National Ins. Co. et al, 510422/2022 (Sup. Ct., Kings Co. Oct. 31, 2022)
In this property insurance coverage dispute the Plaintiffs sued Integon to recover under the insurance policy for fire damage to a structure located in Brooklyn New York. In their Complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that at the time of the fire, they did not reside in the Brooklyn premises. The insurance policy at issue defined the property covered as the “residence premises,” which in turn was defined by certain criteria, including address, no more than 4 apartments, and that the Plaintiffs reside there. Accordingly, Integon moved to dismiss the Complaint as to it because Plaintiffs’ admissions in the Complaint as to their residency places the property outside of the coverage offered by the policy.
The Trial Court agreed and dismissed the complaint. In particular, the court found the “residence premises” provision unambiguous and as applied to the allegations in the complaint, bars coverage. The court held that Plaintiffs “failed to raise a triable question of fact,” notwithstanding their argument that Integon failed to show that “Plaintiffs misrepresentation on their application that the Premises was owner occupied was material.” As Integon noted to the court, Plaintiffs potential misrepresentation in applying for insurance is a different defense than the strictly contractual defense that the premises did not fall within the coverage provided by the policy at the time of the loss because it was not owner occupied.
This decision is relevant because it addresses, pursuant to the “residence premises” definition found in may insurance policies, whether an insured can state a claim for coverage if its description of the property sued upon does not match the property covered as noted in the insurance policy. Thus, this decision would be helpful to attorneys who practice property insurance law in New York or elsewhere as this issue comes up often, but appears in few reported decisions.