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Michael F. Schmidt Persuades A Federal Court To Grant Summary Judgment In Homeowner Misrepresentation Case

In Lacresia Nolan v Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company, plaintiff filed suit seeking recovery for fire damage to her home insured by Nationwide for $161,000.  After completing discovery we moved for summary judgment on the basis that the policy of insurance was rescinded from its inception due to the plaintiff/insured’s misrepresentations in the application for insurance.  The plaintiff argued that Nationwide had to prove an intentional misrepresentation, that Nationwide undertook to inspect the premises and should have ascertained that they were vacant, and that the plaintiff advised the agent that she was not residing in the premises and only intended to move in the future contrary to the written application, thus estopping Nationwide from raising a misrepresentation in the application and that Nationwide knew the premises would be vacant because they were being remodeled or under construction.  The court rejected all of these arguments holding that the misrepresentation did not have to be intentional, that Nationwide had no duty to investigate to determine if the representations in the application were correct, that the plaintiff/insured did not provide oral information to the agent contrary to all of the misrepresentations in the application and thus Nationwide was not estopped from raising the defense of the application and the fact that the home was allegedly being remodeled or under construction was irrelevant to the misrepresentations.  The court granted summary judgment to Nationwide dismissing all of the claims.