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Insurer Says Shouldn't Have to Pay Claims in Fatal Connecticut Christmas House Fire

Source: AP

Posted on 27 Apr 2012

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House fireAn insurance company said it should not have to pay claims or lawsuits stemming from a Christmas morning fire that killed five people because a contractor renovating the house misrepresented the type and scope of work his company performs.

Utica First Insurance Co. argues in a lawsuit filed this week in New York that Michael Borcina misrepresented the number of employees with his company, Tiberias Construction, its sales and payroll, and size and type of work it performs. The insurer says if it knew the facts, it would not have issued the policies.

The fire in Stamford, blamed on discarded fireplace ashes, killed 9-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace Badger, and their grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson. Authorities have said Borcina, who was among those who escaped the blaze, is believed to have put the ashes in or outside an entry, near the trash.

The lawsuit says those who could be affected include the girls' parents, Madonna and Matthew Badger; Madonna's brother, Wade Johnson, and the estates of the victims. The Badgers are divorced.

The lawsuit requests a court judgment declaring the insurer has no obligation to defend or pay any claims or lawsuits that may arise from the fire.

"We are very disappointed that Tiberias Construction's insurance company is trying to get out from under its legal obligations," said David Grudberg, Borcina's attorney.

Richard Emery, Matthew Badger's attorney, said he has to examine the insurer's claim.

"But at first blush it certainly seems that the insurance company is trying to wiggle out of their responsibility to compensate Borcina's victims," Emery said.

Emery said he was considering a lawsuit against Borcina "and a lot of other people that we believe are responsible for what occurred."

Stan Twardy, attorney for Madonna Badger, declined to comment, saying he hadn't seen the lawsuit. A message was left with an attorney for the insurance company.

The insurer says its rules for acceptable types of businesses and risks for which it provides insurance specifies limits on the number of employees, sales, payroll and type of work.

Matthew Badger has started a project that supports underfunded elementary school arts programs in memory of his daughters.

"Nothing is going to bring them back but perhaps their memory can be perpetuated effectively if the foundation that Matthew Badger has started is properly supported," Emery said.


Teresa Moore Apr 27 2012 11:05AM Report Abuse
Because the "insured" misrepresented his business operations to the company, the "insurance company" has no legal obligation to pay the claims against them. The insured committed fraud and an illegal act by misrepresenting themselves to the company. I think the insurance company should file a lawsuit against Tiberias Construction! Although, the insurance company must prove they have been misrepresented and that they don't write that type of risk. It is unfortunate that lives have been lost in this case.
Jamie Rick Apr 27 2012 10:25AM Report Abuse
While certainly a tragedy, this story fails to indicate why Tiberias Construction or their commercial insurer would have any legal liability. I am sure they weren't hired to put out the ashes. There must be more to it, like did they disconnect the smoke detectors?
Alan Doloboff Apr 27 2012 10:09AM Report Abuse
This is a tragedy, no doubt, and my heart goes out to the family. Where is the rationale to bring in his contracting company to pay damages? I hope the insurance carrier prevails and the courts have the strength to say this is not an insurance matter and have the case dismissed.
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