To Fry or Not to Fry? Homeowner Coverage Issues for Turkey Frying

It is estimated that turkey frying-related accidents cause in excess of $15 million in property damage each year in the U.S. In fact, Thanksgiving Day yields more than double cooking-related home insurance claims compared to any other day in November. The holiday season is upon us.  As a result, it is important for insurers to be ready to handle an increase in all kinds of fire-loss claims. Additionally, it is important to note, given the current COVID restriction across the United States, there may be an increase in families attempting to fry their Thanksgiving bird outdoors in an attempt to maintain a safe distance from loved ones. This could lead to a potential increase in claims this holiday season.

Insurers need to be prepared for an uptick in claims under insureds homeowners’ policies. The dwelling coverage of homeowners’ insurance will typically cover the cost to repair or replace damage resulting from a turkey frying accident.  However, it will still be important to investigate the claim to determine whether there is enough dwelling coverage to cover the replacement costs and sufficient coverage to cover any built-ins and/or contents that are destroyed.

Additionally, it may not be the home itself that suffers property damage. Many at-home-fryers turn their backyards or detached garages into temporary kitchens. It will be important to check if any auxiliary structures are damaged and whether or not those structures are covered under the policy. It is also important to note that the liability coverage will likely cover any injury to guests, so long as your policy covers the proper amount of liability coverage.

While homeowners will likely be covered by frying mistakes under homeowners policy, an interesting issue arises about potential damage to common areas at condominiums. Several states, including Washington, have explicit laws regarding coverages that must be maintained by condominium associations.  In Washington, RCW 64.34.352 requires condominium associations to maintain property insurance on the condominium insuring against all risks of direct physical loss commonly insured against and liability insurance, including injury and property damage from using the common areas. It will be important for any adjuster to be aware of any legal requirements for coverage. Additionally, a condominiums association’s Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) may specifically prohibit turkey frying (as is the trend with many condominium associations) which would preclude coverage for any loss resulting from the same.

Lether Law Group has been handling large first-party property losses for over 32 years. This includes fire loss and spontaneous, unexpected claims. If you would like to discuss these recent developments or any other matters, please feel free to contact us at any time.

The above article is an opinion based on various resources such as industry knowledge and is not to be construed as legal advice or to be used as such. If you require legal advice or would like to inquire further about the information contained in this article, please feel free to contact our office directly.

Introducing Two New Attorneys

Lether Law Group recently welcomed two new attorneys to our team. Welcome aboard to Dana Mydland and Erik Swedstedt. We look forward to accomplishing great things together.
Dana Mydland grew up in the Pacific Northwest and has remained since. She graduated cum laude from Washington State University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Criminal Justice. Dana received her juris doctorate from Seattle University School of Law, graduating cum laude. She served as Executive Editor of Research and Training for Seattle University Law Review.  Prior to coming to our firm, Dana worked as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable J. Robert Leach at the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division I. Dana enjoys golfing, reading, and hiking around the PNW.
Erik Swedstedt is a Seattle native and graduate of the University of Oregon where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and a minor in Economics. After obtaining his undergraduate degree, Erik worked for an aviation law firm for three years. Erik gained experience working with C-level executives and assisting with the purchase and sale of corporate aircraft. He subsequently earned his Juris Doctor from Seattle University School of Law where he graduated cum laude. During law school, Erik worked as a legal intern assisting insurance companies with uninsured motorist claims. During his final year of law school, Erik worked as a law clerk for a law firm focused on construction litigation. Erik enjoys attending concerts, golfing, and snowboarding.

Lether Law Group Interviews Now Available Through Our Website

2020 has been a historic year for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, most of these developments have not been favorable. As a result of COVID issues, civil unrest issues, and historic wildfires, there have been significant legal issues which have impacted insurers and insureds.

To address these fascinating issues, Lether Law Group announces that it is hosting on its webpage a series of interviews addressing various issues such as COVID exposure, trying cases in 2020 during a pandemic, wildfires, protest claims, and other pertinent and relevant developments which have occurred in the insurance and legal world in 2020. Our first interview involving COVID coverage issues and the impact of COVID on the legal and business community is now available on our webpage at letherlaw.com/covid-19-resources

We invite everyone to review our webpage and learn a little bit more about Lether Law Group. Please take the time to watch what is hopefully an educational and informative interview as well.

Remembering Victims and Survivors

On the anniversary of September 11, 2001, we at Lether Law Group stand united in remembering the victims and survivors of the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. In light of those events, and the challenges still present today, we especially give thanks for our first responders and the heroes who so bravely honored, and continue to honor, our country.

JPML Denies Move to Create MDL for COVID-19 Business Interruption Lawsuits

Earlier today, the Panel for Multi-District Litigation issued an Order denying consolidation of hundreds business interruption coverage lawsuits related to COVID-19.

The Panel held that the allegedly common issues supporting consolidation, “share only a superficial commonality.”  The Panel further held that there would be little potential for common discovery and that because each case will involve, “different coverages, conditions, exclusions, and policy provisions purchased by different businesses in different industries located in different states,” the differences in analyzing coverage will overwhelm any common issues.

The Panel held that consolidation would present serious managerial and efficiency concerns that make consolidation inappropriate for these claims.

COVID-19 Related Business Interruption in District Courts

As a result of this ruling, nearly all of the COVID-19 related business interruption lawsuits filed through the United States will remain in the District Courts where each case originated.

The exception may be for a limited number of insurers.  The Panel has asked for additional briefing as to whether insurer-specific MDL’s might be appropriate for Lloyd’s, Cincinnati Ins. Co., the Hartford insurers, and Society Insurance.

Lether Law Group represented The Dentists Insurance Company in opposing MDL treatment for these matters.  We are pleased that we were able to obtain this result.  If you have any questions or if we can be of assistance on any COVID-19 related matters, including class actions, please feel free to contact us at any time.

Washington Insurance Commissioner Releases New Guidance to Businesses in Light of Recent Events

On June 3, 2020, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kriedler advised Washington State business owners to contact their insurance providers as soon as possible if they have experienced loss or damage in association with recent occurrences of looting and vandalism taking place throughout the state.  The following is a link to the full announcement:

https://www.insurance.wa.gov/news/kreidler-advises-businesses-damaged-during-protests-file-claims-asap

The announcement included the following statements:
  • Damage to commercial property/business caused by theft, vandalism, and/or fire should be covered under a commercial property policy unless that type of loss is specifically excluded;
  • Coverage for damage to plate glass windows is dependent upon the individual policy language;
  • Business that have been temporarily closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic are not considered vacant under the terms of an insurance policy; and
  • A “war and military action” exclusion should not exclude damage caused during a protest.
 In addition, the Insurance Commissioner advised business owners to take the following immediate steps if they plan on filing a claim: 1) contact their insurance company; and 2) consider hiring professional help with debris clean up and to secure their property to protect against further damage.
This announcement is not surprising given recent events and widespread resulting property damage.However, this advisement and increase in civil disturbance claims raise numerous coverage issues.These include the potential application of coverage exclusions including the vacancy exclusion, mitigation and duty to protect from further loss requirements, and valuation issues.
In addition, the steps necessary for an insured to properly mitigate damages and protect insured property from further loss is also fact dependent and will require a careful examination of the steps taken by an insured.Whether, and to what extent, any such mitigation efforts are covered by a policy will depend on the individual policy.The potential for coverage for any such steps should be discussed with an insured early in the claim handling process.

Finally, in light of the potentially severe impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on business throughout the state and country, we expect more complicated valuation disputes.The risk of inflated claims may also increase.

Whether property damage by theft, vandalism, or fire is covered will ultimately be dependent upon the terms and conditions of the actual policy and the specific facts presented in any claim.As result, it is important that insurers proactively and thoroughly investigate each claim based on its unique facts.It will also be necessary to thoroughly and timely respond to these claims in order to avoid extracontractual exposures.

These are just a few of the potential coverage issues raised by the Insurance Commissioner’s announcement and the damage caused during by the recent civil disturbance claims.

Lether Law Group has been handling large first-party property losses for over 32 years.This includes earthquake claims, storm and hurricane losses, wildfire claims, and even a number of claims involving civil disturbances.If you would like to discuss these recent developments or any other matters, please feel free to contact us at any time.

Lether Law Group is fully staffed and available to our clients during the current health crisis. We are working remotely with secure technology to ensure we can continue to provide you with the highest level of service.

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