Misrepresentation that Dwelling Was “Owner-Occupied” Justified Rescission of the Fire Insurance Policy
The Second Department determined the representation in a fire insurance policy that the dwelling was “owner-occupied” was a material misrepresentation which allowed rescission of the policy. Even if the property owner was unaware of the misrepresentation at the outset, he ratified the contract by permitting it to be renewed:
“[T]o establish its right to rescind an insurance policy, an insurer must demonstrate that the insured made a material misrepresentation” … . “A representation is a statement as to past or present fact, made to the insurer by, or by the authority of, the applicant for insurance or the prospective insured, at or before the making of the insurance contract as an inducement to the making thereof” (Insurance Law § 3105[a]). “A misrepresentation is material if the insurer would not have issued the policy had it known the facts misrepresented” (…Insurance Law § 3105[b]). “To establish materiality as a matter of law, the insurer must present documentation concerning its underwriting practices, such as underwriting manuals, bulletins, or rules pertaining to similar risks, that show that it would not have issued the same policy if the correct information had been disclosed in the application” … .
Here, the defendant demonstrated, prima facie, that the application for insurance contained a misrepresentation regarding whether the premises would be owner-occupied and that this misrepresentation was material … . Contrary to the plaintiff’s contention, the defendant established that the material misrepresentation is attributable to him since, even if the application for insurance had been submitted without his actual or apparent authority, he ratified the representations contained in the application by accepting the policy for owner-occupied premises and permitting it to be renewed for years thereafter on the same terms … . Morales v Castlepoint Ins Co, 2015 NY Slip Op 01618, 2nd Dept 2-25-15