Friday, October 10, 2008

Son-In-Law Tenant Residing in "Additional Residence Rented to Others" Not an "Insured"

Ramos v. OneBeacon Ins. Co.
(Sup. Ct., Queens Co., decided 9/2/2008)

OneBeacon issued a homeowners policy to Giovanni and Giuseppa Scuderi for their residence and two rental properties, which the policy identified and designated as "Additional Residences Rented to Others". The Scuderis' daughter and son-in-law, Davis Ramos, rented and lived with their two children in one of those two rental properties. Ramos hired George Georgiadis to do some plumbing renovations at their rental property and allegedly injured him with a saw. Georgiadis sued Scuderi and Ramos for his injuries, and OneBeacon denied liability coverage under the Scuderi homeowners policy to Ramos because he was not an "insured" under that policy. Ramos did not have renters insurance at the time of the Georgiadis accident. Ramos brought this declaratory judgment action for coverage under the Scuderi policy. Following discovery, OneBeacon moved for summary judgment.

The Scuderis' homeowners policy with OneBeacon defined "insured" as:
3. Insured means you and residents of your household who are:
a. Your relatives; or

b. Other persons under the age of 21 and in the care of any person named above.
OneBeacon's senior business analyst testified during her EBT that the Scuderi homeowners policy did not cover the acts of tenants of the rental properties because “household” does not include tenants. Further, if a tenant of a rental premises wanted to purchase coverage, it would be purchased under a separate renter’s policy.

Ramos testified that he had resided at the rental premises where the underlying accident occurred with his wife and two children on a permanent basis on the date of that accident and for some time prior to that accident. His wife's parents did not reside there and had never resided there.

Scuderi testified that he had resided his own home - the primary location on OneBeacon's policy- for more than 20 years. His daughter and son-in-law did not reside with him but lived, approximately five to ten minutes away, at the rented premises where the underlying incident occurred.

On these facts, Queens County Supreme Court Justice Orin Kitzes granted summary judgment to OneBeacon, declaring that it did not owe Ramos defense and indemnification coverage under the Scuderis' homeowners policy in relation to Georgiadis' underlying personal injury action:
Review of the parties’ deposition transcripts and the documentary evidence submitted herein, which includes a copy of the OneBeacon insurance policy purchased by defendant Scuderi, demonstrates (1) that Ramos did not reside with Scuderi at the Scuderi residence, (2) that Ramos lived with only his wife and children and the premises where the underlying incident occurred, and (3) that Ramos was a renter, or lessee, of the premises where the incident occurred. Since defendant Scuderi, the named insured, did not reside with his son-in-law Ramos at the premises where the underlying incident occurred, and Ramos did not live in or occupy the premises where defendant Scuderi resided on the date of the underlying incident, Ramos cannot be considered a relative who resided in the named insured’s household (see Biundo v New York Central Mutual, 14 AD3d 559 [2005]; cf. Auerbach v Otrego Mut. Fire Ins., Co., 36 AD3d 840 [2007]). Further, it is clear that defendant Scuderi insured the property where Ramos resided where and the underlying incident occurred as a rental property, not as a second residence (see Walburn v State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 215 AD2d 837 [1995]). Thus, since Ramos is a tenant of the rental property where the incident occurred, and the subject insurance policy unequivocally provides that there is no coverage for Ramos as a tenant of that property, the court finds that defendant OneBeacon has demonstrated a prima facie entitlement to an award of summary judgment in his favor (see generally Alvarez v Prospect Hospital, 68 NY2d 320 [1986]).

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