House Burns Down Insurance Says No Coverage Because of Pitbull?

http://7online.com/news/exclusive-insurance-company-refuses-li-fire-claim-over-pet-pit-bull/533987/

Pitbull–No insurance coverage for house

WABC

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 06:05PM

A woman on Long Island is baffled over the denial of her insurance claim after a fire.   The company told her it didn’t need to pay because she owns a dog!

It may make you take a second look at your policy.

Of all the absurd reasons to deny a fire claim, having a dog has to rank among the top. How can a dog start a fire?
That’s exactly what a Long Island mother wants to know.
The insurance company says they were never told she owned a Pit Bull, and she says she was never asked.

When a fire in the laundry room gutted her East Rockaway home, Mary Grace O’Brien took comfort in knowing her $300,000 insurance policy would help her and her three children rebuild, or at least she thought. Three months after the fire she got a letter from Adirondack Insurance denying her fire claim because of Bella, the lovable family Pit Bull.

“They were looking for a reason not to pay the claim and as luck would have it I have this dog,” said Mary Grace O’Brien, the homeowner.

The problem Mary Grace thinks began with a broker at Sidakas Insurance Agency in Queens who sold her the policy. She never saw nor filled out an application, only answered some questions on the phone. But this application was submitted by the broker and it asks if the homeowner has pets, to which someone answered “N” for no.

“They never asked me about pets, if they asked me if I had pets, I would have told them I had pets,” O’Brien said.

So after the fire, she was stunned to hear Adirondack was denying her $300,000 claim because of Bella. In a letter, Adirondack informed her that because they discovered she had a Pit Bull, they would have to “void the policy” because Pit Bulls were on their list of prohibited dogs. She now believes the application claiming she had no pets was forged by someone at the broker’s office who copied her signature from a document cancelling her old policy.

“This misrepresentation here was made by this office not by me. That’s the problem,” O’Brien said.

Mary Grace went undercover with an Eyewitness News producer to confront Andrew Sidakis. Even though he signed the application as her broker, he denies forging her name.

“There’s no reason for anyone in this office to forge signatures. Anna, me, anyone else to forge signature. It doesn’t make sense. Misrepresentation has intentional connotation that you’re intentionally trying to deceive, that’s not our practice,” said Andrew Sidakis, a broker.

We took the signatures to a handwriting expert whose forensic analysis showed they are an identical match.
“They both overlay identical” (meaning?) “This is a mechanical fabrication what we easily call a cut and paste,” said Dennis Ryan, of Applied Forensics.

“The document was filled out by someone here?” Eyewitness News asked.

“Would you like the name and number of a lawyer to contact?” Sidakis said.

When confronted with questions about the forged application, the Insurance broker referred Eyewitness News to his attorney.

“How would any document here be forged, could you explain that?” Eyewitness News asked.

“I’m not permitted to answer any questions for you, I’m sorry,” Sidakis said.

For six months now, Mary Grace’s charred home has been empty, that’s six mortgage payments on home she can’t live in nor rebuild even though she paid all her premiums. A lawsuit against the broker and Adirondack Insurance is her last hope.

“How would any document here be forged, could you explain that?” Eyewitness News asked.
“I’m not permitted to answer any questions for you, I’m sorry,” Sidakis said.

For six months now, Mary Grace’s charred home has been empty, that’s six mortgage payments on home she can’t live in nor rebuild even though she paid all her premiums. A lawsuit against the broker and Adirondack Insurance is her last hope.

“It all comes down to?” Eyewitness News asked.
“Money, well what about me? What about the fact I’m looking down the barrel to lose everything I worked for my whole life?” O’Brien said.

Mary Grace and her three kids are living with a friend. A lawsuit is her last hope to settle the matter.  The lesson here is when buying homeowner’s insurance; make sure you see the application to check that the information in it is accurate.

PD: It is likely *possible* that IF no one ever ASKED an applicant if they owned any dog at all on the application, IF the ownership of the dog is a  material consideration–that fact should BE on the application for the applicant to read, and thus answer in advance. Also, just because the application is accurate doesn’t mean a broker couldn’t change it. It would be best to get an immediate copy of the application when you are submitting it.

One cannot consent or disclose  something which is not on the document, however, so if the question was not on the application, there was nothing to answer. MOST insurance policies are determined cost-wise, in advance, and then the policy is sent to the insured, complete, which has the exclusions.

Most insureds do not really read their insurance policies, but if the policy in total is sent out BEFORE the insured signs, then at the time of receipt, it is presumed the insured has read it. When signing the documents in closing a loan, they give you 35 pages to look at. Few people bother to try and read the entire document. Most people buy a car and sign the contract and don’t read it.

In this case, since the forensic expert states the signature is an EXACT replica, that would indicate that it could plausibly be cut and paste. If the pitbull was a golden retriever, would there be a policy? Of course, because a golden isn’t on the bad dog black list.  Do most insurance companies deny coverage for bully or bully type dogs? Yep.  If you own one, should you ask right off, if coverage is included for a bully type dog? Yep.

But even if you didn’t have coverage for the bully type dog, and your dog was a bully type, does owning such a dog void the entire policy in total, or just harm that the dog could cause?   We think that is the real question. Most people would not buy THAT insurance —if the policy would be completely void if they owned such a dog. In fact, that void clause should be in large font type of size 16 in bold, which is hard to miss.

 

 

 

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