In Donegal Mut. Ins. Co. v. Thangavel, No. 379, 2022, 2023 Del. LEXIS 227, the Supreme Court of Delaware (Supreme Court) considered whether the Sutton Rule prevented the plaintiff from pursuing subrogation against the defendants. As applied in Delaware, the Sutton Rule explains that landlords and tenants are co-insureds under the landlord’s fire insurance policy unless a tenant’s lease clearly expresses an intent to the contrary. If the Sutton Rule applies, the landlord’s insurer cannot pursue the tenant for the landlord’s damages by way of subrogation. Here, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision that the Sutton Rule applied because the lease did not clearly express an intent to hold the tenants liable for the landlord’s damages.
In Thangavel, the plaintiff, Donegal Mutual Insurance Company (Insurer), provided property insurance to Seaford Apartment Ventures, LLC (Landlord) for a residential property in Delaware. Sathiyaselvam Thangavel and Sasikala Muthusamy (Tenants) leased an apartment (the Premises) from Landlord and signed a lease. Insurer alleged that Tenants hit a sprinkler head while flying a drone inside the Premises which caused water to spray from the damaged sprinkler head, resulting in property damage to the Premises. Landlord filed an insurance claim with Insurer, who paid Landlord $77,704.06 to repair the damage. Insurer then sought to recover the repair costs from Tenants via subrogation.