“Residence Premises” Exclusion

Mountain Valley Indemnity Co. v. Hylton et al., 2020 NY Slip Op 34347(U) (Sup. Ct. NY Co. 2020), aff’d 154 N.Y.S.3d 763 (Mem)2021 N.Y. Slip Op. 06768 (1st Dept. Dec. 2, 2021)

This is an update to the lower court decision which was reported last year and has since been appealed and affirmed.

This case involves an insurance coverage dispute arising out of an underlying action for personal injuries allegedly sustained by claimant when she tripped and fell on the exterior stairs of premises owned by Petronia Hylton and insured under a homeowner’s policy issued by Mountain Valley Indemnity Company.

In the coverage ligation, Mountain Valley moved for summary judgment based on Hylton’s sworn deposition that she did not reside at the insured premises at the time of the claimant’s accident, and therefore, the location does not qualify as “residence premises.” In opposition to the motion, Hylton submitted an affidavit proffering two arguments. First, Hylton argued that she had lied under oath at her deposition and that she did in fact reside at the insured premises at the time of the accident. Alternatively, Hylton argued that Mountain Valley’s disclaimer was untimely pursuant to Insurance Law 3420(d), and thus invalid as a matter of law.

By Decision, dated December 1, 2020, Judge Melissa A. Crane of the Supreme Court, New York County, granted Mountain Valley’s motion for summary judgment declaring that it had no duty to defend or indemnify Hylton in the underlying personal injury action. In so holding, the court found that “unsupported and conclusory assertion of residency,” as alleged in Hylton’s affidavit, is insufficient to defeat summary judgment on “residence premises” grounds. In that regard, the court emphasized that the insured failed to offer “a shred of evidence,” such as a utility bill, to support her assertion that she resided at the premises or any explanation as to why her driver’s license lists a different address. The court further found the timeliness of Mountain Valley’s disclaimer of coverage was irrelevant because where a claim falls outside the scope of a policy’s coverage, the insurer is not required to disclaim.

The decision further confirms that the “residence premises” definition of a homeowner’s policy requires that the insured reside at the premises at the time of the loss to be covered under the policy. It also addresses the inapplicability of the timely disclaimer requirements of Insurance Law 3420(d) where a claim falls outside the scope of coverage because the insured has not satisfied the residency requirement of the policy’s “residence premises” definition. Finally, it addresses the common situation faced by insurers where an insured attempts to avert summary judgment on residence premises grounds with conclusory allegations of residency, without proffering any documentary evidence to support the contention.

Now, the Appellate Division, First Department has affirmed that decision, holding: “Although she gave a sworn statement to the claims adjuster that she did live at the premises, defendant testified under oath at the deposition in the underlying action that she lived elsewhere at the time of the accident, and her deposition testimony was corroborated by her driver’s license. As a result, the premises did not qualify as a covered ‘residence premises’ or ‘insured location’ as defined by the policy.”

Kevin F. Buckley and Tania Gondiosa represented Mountain Valley. Ins. Co.

The decision can be read here.

Share This