New Hampshire Applies Crete/Sutton Doctrine to Bar Subrogation Against College Dormitory Residents

Group of college students

The Supreme Court of New Hampshire held that the Sutton Doctrine extends to resident students in a college dormitory.

May 17, 2021
Kyle Rice - The Subrogation Specialist

Pursuant to the Sutton Doctrine, first announced in Sutton v. Jondahl, 532 P.2d 478 (Okla. Ct. App. 1975), some jurisdictions consider a tenant a coinsured of its landlord absent an express agreement to the contrary. In Ro v. Factory Mut. Ins. Co., No. 2019-0620, 2021 N.H. LEXIS 34 (Mar. 10, 2021), the Supreme Court of New Hampshire held that the Sutton Doctrine, adopted by New Hampshire in Cambridge Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Crete, 846 A.2d 521 (N.H. 2004), extends to resident students in a college dormitory. Thus, absent specific language to the contrary, a student is an implied coinsured under the fire insurance policy issued for his or her dormitory.

In 2016, two students at Dartmouth College, Daniel Ro and Sebastian Lim, set up a charcoal grill on a platform outside of a fourth-floor window in the Morton Hall dormitory. The grill started a fire on the platform that ultimately spread to the roof of the dormitory. During fire suppression efforts, all four floors of the dormitory sustained significant water damage. Following the loss, the building’s insurer, Factory Mutual Insurance Company (Insurer), paid $4,544,313.55 to the Trustees of Dartmouth College for the damages.

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