PA’s Appellate Division: “Household” Is Ambiguous as a Matter of Insurance Contract Interpretation.

In the case of Miller, et al. v. Daniel Poole, et al., Pennsylvania’s Superior Court was faced with the question of whether a homeowner’s policy provided coverage to Poole, a young man who accidentally set his grandmother’s house on fire and thereby damaged the neighbor’s (i.e. Miller’s) house.  The homeowner’s carrier argued (and the trial court agreed) that no coverage was owed because Poole did not move into his grandmother’s house until after her death.  Thus the carrier argued that Poole was not a “resident” of the grandmother’s “household” for purposes of coverage.   The Appellate Division has now reversed the trial court.  Relying on case law from other jurisdictions, the Appellate Division held that the phrase “household” was ambiguous as: “It plausibly could mean either that Helen Poole’s relatives qualified as “insureds” (1) if they lived in the same house with her, or (2) if they lived on the premises insured by her under the Wall Rose policy.”  Wall Rose is now required to defend and indemnity Poole.  Who would have thought that the word “household” was ambiguous?

For more information about this post, please contact Bob Cosgrove at rcosgrove@wcmlaw.com.