Reasonable Expectations – Pennsylvania’s Case by Case Approach to the Sutton Rule

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On August 3, 2020, a fire erupted in the back bedroom causing extensive fire and smoke damage to the home.

February 12, 2024
Melissa Kenney - The Subrogation Strategist

In Mutual Benefit Ins. Co. a/s/o Michael Sacks v. Koser, No. 1340 MDA 2023, 2023 Pa. Super. LEXIS 574, 2023 PA Super 252 (Mutual Benefit), the Superior Court of Pennsylvania discussed whether a landlord’s property insurer could file a subrogation action against tenants that had negligently damaged the landlord’s property. Despite there being more than one clause in the lease holding the tenants liable for the damages, the court held that because there was a provision requiring the landlord, not the tenants, to insure the leased building, the insurer could not subrogate against the tenants.

In Pennsylvania, a tenant’s liability for damage to a leased premises in a subrogation action brought by a landlord’s insurer is determined by the reasonable expectation of the parties to the lease agreement. Under this approach, to determine if subrogation is permitted, the court considers the circumstances of the case and examines the terms of the lease agreement.

In Mutual Benefit, the tenants leased and resided in a residential home pursuant to a lease agreement. The lease specifically addressed insurance, stating that landlord was responsible for obtaining insurance on the dwelling and the landlord’s personal property, and tenants were encouraged to procure separate insurance for their personal property. The lease also addressed liability for damage to the leased property, stating generally that the tenants were responsible for damage caused by the tenants’ negligence.

Ms. Kenney may be contacted at


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