Massachusetts High Court: Attorney's Fee Award Under Consumer Protection Act Not Covered by General Liability Insurance Policy

Policy on ripped paper

A statutory award of attorney’s fees stemming from a bodily injury claim is not reasonably considered “damages because of bodily injury” or “costs taxed against the insured” so as to trigger general liability coverage.

September 19, 2022
Jeffrey J. Vita & David G. Jordan - Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C.

In the case of Vermont Mutual Insurance Co. v. Poirier, 189 N.E.3d 306 (Mass. 2022), Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court concluded that an award of attorney's fees pursuant to Chapter 93A (Massachusetts’ Consumer Protection Act) is not covered under an insured’s general liability insurance policy. Applying Massachusetts law, the Court found that a statutory award of attorney’s fees stemming from a bodily injury claim is not reasonably considered “damages because of bodily injury” or “costs taxed against the insured” so as to trigger general liability coverage.

Facts of the Case
A Servpro company (owned by Mr. and Mrs. Poirier) was hired to clean up a basement after a sewage spill. The owners of the home were injured by fumes from chemicals used in the cleanup and accordingly brought suit against the Poiriers and their Servpro business. In the lawsuit, the homeowners alleged negligence, breach of contract, and also a Chapter 93A claim, asserting breach of warranty of merchantability and warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. Prior to trial, the plaintiffs waived the negligence and breach of contract claims and sought a bench trial on the Chapter 93A claims alone.

Reprinted courtesy of Jeffrey J. Vita, Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C. and David G. Jordan, Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C.

Mr. Vita may be contacted at JVita@sdvlaw.com
Mr. Jordan may be contacted at DJordan@sdvlaw.com



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