Sixth Circuit Affirms Liability Insurer's Broad Duty to Defend and Binds Insurer to Judgment Against Landlord

Person testifying in front of judge

The Court held that the insurer breached its duty to defend and was bound to the insured’s $3 million consented judgment.

September 7, 2020
Michael V. Pepe & Janie Reilly Eddy - Saxe Doernberger & Vita

In a victory for policyholders, the Sixth Circuit affirmed that a landlord’s insurer owed a duty to defend the landlord in a bodily injury claim arising out of a fire that killed three and injured one. The Court held that the insurer breached its duty to defend and was bound to the insured’s $3 million consented judgment.

Transition Investments LLC, an owner of three properties in the Detroit area, purchased a general liability insurance policy with Hamilton Specialty Insurance Company to insure its properties. At one of the properties, a faulty stove started a fire, destroying the building, injuring one person and killing three others. The estates of the deceased and the injured party sued Transition in Michigan state court. In their complaint, the plaintiffs contended that Transition failed to provide a habitable premise and neglected to maintain the property’s stove, which allegedly caused the fire. The plaintiffs argued that Transition’s negligent maintenance of the property led to the fire and the resulting injuries. Transition subsequently tendered the claim to Hamilton. Hamilton claimed that the insurance policy did not cover the fire’s damages and refused to participate in the state court litigation. Ultimately, Transitions entered into a consent judgment with the plaintiffs for $3 million.

Reprinted courtesy of Michael V. Pepe, Saxe Doernberger & Vita and Janie Reilly Eddy, Saxe Doernberger & Vita
Mr. Pepe may be contacted at
Ms. Eddy may be contacted at


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