Ohio Court Reopens Dog Bite Claim, Questions Homeowners’ Insurance Policy Exclusion Clarity (Claims Journal)

Ohio Court Reopens Dog Bite Claim, Questions Homeowners’ Insurance Policy Exclusion Clarity

  Wednesday, November 15th, 2023 Source: Claims Journal

In Ohio, an appellate court has revived a dog bite injury case, casting doubt on the clarity of a homeowners’ insurance policy exclusion. The case, which was initially granted summary judgment in favor of Grange Indemnity Insurance Co., has been reopened by the 3rd Appellate District in Allen County. The claim was filed by Matthew Farmwald after his dog, Caesar, bit Shane Hinds. Grange denied the claim, citing a policy exclusion for dogs with a history of causing bodily harm. Caesar, a mix of Great Dane and Dogo Argentino, had previous incidents of biting humans and other animals.

The policy in question specifically excluded coverage for injuries caused by animals with a past of aggressive behavior. However, it contained an exception for situations where the animal was acting to protect people or property. The appellate panel found that while the exclusion was clear, each of Caesar’s previous biting incidents could potentially fall under this exception, as they might have been reactions to protect. Therefore, the court concluded that there are genuine issues of material fact remaining as to whether the policy exclusion’s exception applies in this instance.

Farmwald’s attorney, Clay Balyeat, noted the uniqueness of Grange’s policy exclusion and expressed uncertainty about the insurer’s next steps. He mentioned the possibility of a settlement but is prepared for further legal actions by Grange. This case highlights the complexities and potential ambiguities in insurance policy language, particularly around exclusions and their exceptions.

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