Markel not obligated to defend apartment owner

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    Reprints

    Markel

    A Markel Corp. unit is not obligated to defend an apartment complex owner in a case where the owner failed to list a property, where a death later occurred, in its insurance application and the site later did not appear in the policy, said a federal appeals court Monday, in affirming a lower court ruling.

    Miami-based Tzadik Acquisitions LLC and Tzadik Management Group 2 LLC own and manage about 60 apartment complexes, according to the ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta in United Specialty Insurance Co. v. Tzadik Acquisitions LLC et al.

    In its insurance application for a commercial general liability policy to Markel unit United Specialty, Tzadik listed 45 properties under “premises information,” that did not include KTA, a Jacksonville, Florida, apartment complex Tzadik owned and managed, according to the ruling.

    The policy issued by United Specialty included a schedule comprised of 45 properties that also did not include KTA.

    The CGL declarations limited coverage to $1 million per occurrence and $2 million in the general aggregate, but the coverage limits for scheduled properties were subject to a “designated locations general aggregate limit endorsement” that assigned each scheduled property its own liability limit.

    The policy also provided a ‘classification and premium’ table that did not include KTA.

    In October 2016, a fatal shooting occurred at KTA and Tzadik was sued by the decedent’s wife in 2017, according to the ruling. United denied coverage for the underlying wrongful death suit and sought a declaration from the U.S. District Court in Jacksonville that it had no duty to defend indemnify Tzadik. Tzadik countersued for breach of contract and bad faith.

    The district court ruled in the insured’s favor and was affirmed by a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel. 

    “Reading the application and the insurance policy as a whole, as we must, the meaning is not ambiguous…Giving effect to every provision, including the list of 45 properties in the application and policy, as well as the ‘classification and premium’ table, the parties’ clear intent was to limit coverage to the scheduled properties,” the ruling said.

    A “reasonable reader would not construe the application and policy to cover KTA,” it said, in affirming the lower court ruling.

    United Specialty attorney James M. Kaplan of Kaplan Zeena LLP in Miami said, “Our client is extremely pleased with the results and in particular with the court’s agreement with their position that a list of scheduled properties can limit the scope of the coverage under the policy.”

    Tzadik’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.