Chicago Title Insurance Company v. Bristol Heights Associates, LLC
As explained in the 2009 Appellate Court case of Double G.G. Leasing, LLC v. Underwriters at Lloyd's, London, absent "a reasonable excuse, when an insured fails to comply with the insurance policy provisions requiring an examination under oath and the production of documents, the breach generally results in the forfeiture of coverage…" In 1994, Lew Volpicella purchased from PB Real Estate, Inc., a parcel of land in Bristol. In 1993, a subdivision of that parcel into 147 lots expired. In 1995, Bristol recorded tax liens for the 1993 grand list under PB Real Estate, filed against the expired 147 lots, without notice to Volpicella. With no overdue balance reflected on his bills, Volpicella paid taxes for the grand lists after 1993. In 2003, Volpicella conveyed the property to Bristol Heights Associates, LLC, by way of warranty deed and became a company member. A title search did not locate the tax liens. Chicago Title Insurance Company issued a title insurance policy to Bristol Heights. In 2005, the city demanded Bristol Heights pay the 1993 taxes. Following unsuccessful negotiations, Bristol Heights filed a title claim. Chicago Title began investigating. Without notifying Chicago Title, Bristol Heights paid the liens in full. Chicago Title filed this declaratory judgment action to determine its obligations under the policy. The court ultimately rendered judgment for Chicago Title. Bristol Heights appealed claiming, inter alia, that the court improperly found that the defendant breached the policy by failing to cooperate with the coverage investigation, prejudicing the plaintiff. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The defendant stipulated that it did not cooperate with the plaintiff's coverage investigation prior to paying the city. The defendant continued to refuse to provide requested documents after payment. The defendant unsuccessfully asserted that the plaintiff's requests went beyond the policy's scope, limited to proof of loss or damage. The plaintiff was authorized under the relevant policy provision to investigate whether the claim was entitled to coverage. The trial court did not err by finding the requests reasonable under the policy terms and that the policy required the defendant to cooperate with such requests. The court did not err in finding that the defendant breached the policy and prejudiced the plaintiff by failing to cooperate, despite the defendant's eventual compliance.