The Western District of Pennsylvania recently needed to answer the query of whether a raccoon’s moves in destroying a property can be taken into consideration vandalism or malicious mischief below an insurance coverage. The trial court observed that “raccoons and their partners within the animal country cannot formulate the purpose needed to have interaction in vandalism, malicious mischief, or some other criminal or actionable behavior.”1
Capital Flip, LLC (“Capital Flip”), the Plaintiff, become insured through a dwelling policy issued by means of Defendant, American Modern Select Insurance Company (“American Modern”). Capital Flip found that raccoons had by hook or by crook entered the residing and induced damage to the interior. The residing policy offered insurance for a restrained range of “perils insured towards,” one among which changed into for “vandalism or malicious mischief.” Capital Flip sought alleviation under the policy primarily based on this peril and American Modern denied insurance.
Capital Flip filed a Complaint which contained breach of contract and horrific religion counts. Defendant eventually filed a 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss. Capital Flip’s argument in reaction to the movement turned into that the racoons had vandalized the property and, therefore, the loss become blanketed. Capital Flip in addition argued that the coverage become ambiguous because it did no longer specially outline “vandalism” or “malicious mischief.”
The court docket disagreed and observed the coverage to be clear and unambiguous. It reasoned that “it’s miles nicely-mounted that a time period isn’t ambiguous simply due to the fact an coverage policy does not offer a specific definition.”2 The court docket appeared to each dictionary definitions and unique legal usage in coming to its conclusion. The Oxford Dictionary defined “vandal” as “a Person who deliberately destroys or damages assets.” Further, criminal mischief, which intertwines the ideas of vandalism and common regulation malicious mischief, requires a human actor underneath the Pennsylvania Crimes Code.
Lastly, the court taken into consideration persuasive case regulation on the issue and found that every one of the precedent reflected declining insurance for vandalism and malicious mischief whilst speculated to had been caused by an animal. In its analysis the court mentioned a poem provided by using New Mexico District Court Judge/Poet Steve Herrera:
Alas, it’s miles written in the regulation
That an animal with the paw
Does no longer have the thoughts
To do the damage of this kind.
And so, I’m sorry, the Plaintiff received’t get paid.
That’s how the settlement become made.
This coverage does no longer follow
When the bobcat runs awry.3
Based off this example and similar cases all through the country, an insured will now not succeed in making an argument that an animal vandalized their assets.
Merlin Law Group has blogged approximately comparable circumstances but specific policy issues. Please see Nicole Vinson’s blog pertaining to an alligator that entered a Florida property and whether or no longer the loss would be denied under a reptile exclusion. Please additionally see Larry Bache’s weblog concerning raccoons and the vermin exclusion in insurance policies.
1 Capital Flip v. American Modern Select Ins. Co., 2:12-CV-180 (W.D. Penn. 2019).
3 Montgomery v. United Services Automobile Association, 118 N.M. 742 (N.M. App. 1994).