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Insurance Coverage: Court finds that insured’s policy is void due to material misrepresentation of facts and holds that insurance company has no duty to defend or indemnify

The plaintiff, Providence Mutual Fire Insurance Company, brings a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that it has neither a duty to defend nor indemnify the defendant in connection with a personal injury action brought against him. The underlying action arises out of an incident in which the underlying plaintiff alleges that she was bitten in the face by the defendant’s dog while at his residence. The plaintiff issued an occurrence-based homeowner’s insurance policy for the premises. The policy contains clauses regarding cancellation of the agreement, to include if there has been a material misrepresentation of fact, which if known to plaintiff, would have caused it not to issue the policy.

The court holds that the policy is void ab initio or subject to cancellation because the defendant made materially false statements and material misrepresentations when applying for the policy. Under oath, the defendant stated that he purchased his dog in January of 2017 and that he kept the dog at the premises through November 2019. In the defendant’s application for insurance in November of 2019, he failed to disclose that he owned a dog and that the dog lived at the premises. The defendant asserts that his application was completed by an agency and not by himself and thus he was unaware that the application indicated that there were no animals at the premises. It is undisputed that the defendant did electronically sign the application. The plaintiff’s main argument is that there is no genuine issue of material fact that it had no duty to defend or indemnify the defendant in the underlying action because the defendant made a material misrepresentation on his application for insurance.

The defendant objects to this argument on the grounds that he did not make any false or fraudulent material misrepresentations because any misrepresentations were unknown to him. The court finds unpersuasive the defendant’s argument that he did not knowingly make such a misrepresentation. Under Connecticut law, the court explains, a person may not claim that a misrepresentation is innocent solely because the person failed to read the application before signing it. The law requires that the insured shall not only, in good faith, answer all the interrogatories correctly, but shall use reasonable diligence to see that the answers are correctly written. The defendant signed the application, acknowledging that the contents therein were true and accurate and whether or not he personally reviewed the answers or checked for their accuracy is of no consequence.

The court states that an insurance broker, such as the one who completed the defendant’s application, is an agent of the insured in obtaining an insurance policy. The essence of the agency relationship is the manifestation of consent by one person to another that the other shall act on his behalf and subject to his control, and consent by the other to so act. For all these reasons, the court concludes and declares that the plaintiff has neither a duty to defend nor indemnify the defendant in the underlying action and the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment is granted. Providence Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Laires, No. 3:21-CV-00844 (KAD), 2023 WL 4352470 (D. Conn. July 5, 2023).