State Farm Fire & Casualty Insurance Co. v. Rodriguez
Absent an express provision in the lease, a landlord's insurance company may not be permitted to sue the lessee for fire damage. The landlord obtained insurance from the plaintiff, State Farm Fire & Casualty Insurance Co., which paid the landlord for damages that resulted from a fire. State Farm sued the defendant tenant, alleging that the tenant was negligent and was responsible for the fire. The tenant moved for summary judgment and argued that the insurer lacked the right to bring a subrogation action. In DiLullo v. Joseph, a 2002 decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court wrote, "The possibility that a lessor's insurer may proceed against a lessee almost certainly is not within the expectations of most landlords and tenants unless they have been [forewarned] by expert counseling." The DiLullo court added, "When lease provisions are either silent or ambiguous in this regard—and especially when a lessor's insurance policy is also silent or ambiguous—courts should adopt a rule against allowing the lessor's insurer to proceed against the tenant." Here, the lease did not inform the tenant that she would be legally responsible to the landlord's insurance company for any fire damages. The court granted the tenant's motion for summary judgment.