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Vol. 10 - Issue 3
April 28, 2021

 

Snoring And Insurance Coverage

 

 

 

 

 

For Martha Wood, of Fort Dodge, Iowa, sleeping could be a very unpleasant experience.  Her husband, Charlie, often snored.  Or, as Charlie saw, allegedly snored.  As far as Charlie was concerned, there was no proof that he snored.  First, and most importantly, he had never heard himself snore. 

Fed up with Charlie’s juvenile denial, Martha videotaped Charlie sleeping.  Charlie’s response was that the video had been doctored.  Sure, the noise coming from Charlie’s mouth, as he slept, was as loud as a freight train.  But, as Charlie noted, the couple lived very close to train tracks.  Charlie maintained that Martha could have easily taped the sound of a freight train going by and altered the video to appear that the noise was coming from from Charlie.

A year after Martha made the video, the couple divorced.  Two years later, Charlie remarried.  A week after the wedding, Martha posted on Facebook the video of Charlie snoring with the caption: “Charlie has a new wife.  She must not have very good hearing.”

It didn’t take long for word about Martha’s post to reach Charlie.  He did not take it well.  Charlie sued Martha in District Court in Webster County, Iowa.  He alleged that Martha had violated his right to privacy by posting the video on Facebook.  [The video revealed Charlie’s body, under a blanket, and only his shoulders upward were exposed). 

Martha sought coverage for the suit under her homeowner’s policy issued by Corn Stalk Property & Casualty Ins. Co.  The policy provided coverage for “personal injury,” which it defined to include invasion of privacy.  So, needless to say, Martha was quite surprised that Corn Stalk P&C denied coverage. 

As Corn Stalk saw it, yes, the suit’s allegation of invasion of privacy satisfied the definition of “personal injury.”  However, coverage was barred on the basis of the exclusion for “‘personal injury,’ to a resident of the household identified on the declarations page, arising out of activities in such household.”

Martha was outraged.  She responded to the denial with the following tirade: “Charlie Wood was not a resident of the household at the time that the video was posted on Facebook.  We were divorced and Charlie had not been a resident for nearly three years.  When the video was posted, Charlie was a resident of Debbie Dingledorf’s household.  Debbie must not mind sleeping next to a 747 at take-off, or living with someone who drinks out of the juice bottle, eats ice cream out of the carton, leaves cream of wheat in the bowl so it can become harder than concrete the next morning, does not break down the cereal box when putting it in the trashcan, resulting in half the can being filled, leaves a wet towel from the shower on the bed and believes that classical music is not real music because the songs have no words.”
 
Martha sued Corn Stalk for breach of contract.  The court in Martha v. Corn Stalk P&C, No. 21-4587 (Iowa Dist. Ct. April 2, 2021 (Webster Cty.)) concluded that no coverage was owed.  The court agreed that the “resident of the household” exclusion applied. 

The court explained its reasoning: “While this court is sympathetic to plaintiff’s situation – and would have done the same thing – it does alter that plain conclusion that Mr. Wood was a resident of the household at the time that the video was taken.  It was from this action that the invasion of privacy emanated.  The exclusion makes it clear that coverage for “personal injury” is excluded if it arises out of activities in the household.  The phrase “arising out of” is interpreted broadly to mean “but for” causation.  Here, but for Mr. Wood being a resident of the household, he would not have been videotaped and there would not have been an invasion of privacy.  The exclusion does not state that the invasion of privacy must be to a resident of the household at the time that he or she was a resident.”
 
With no coverage, Martha was forced to settle with Charlie.  He agreed to drop the suit in exchange for the return of his Big Mouth Billy Bass.

 
That’s my time. I’m Randy Spencer. Contact Randy Spencer at

Randy.Spencer@coverageopinions.info
 
 
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