Panel OKs homeowners’ policy exclusion ban

It was a seminal moment in the case when attorneys for both sides discovered that in the homeowners’ policy, the fine print specifically excluded the intentional actions of the family’s children.

Thomas andDenise Breazeale, of St. Tammany Parish, said they were surprised to learn a homeowners’ insurance policy would not always include every member of the family living in the house.

The policies cover all manner of problems from slipping and falling to damage done by members of the family, such breaking someone else’s window.

“You were leaving the parents to hang out to dry for what their children do, for even throwing rocks,” said Allain F. Hardin, the New Orleans attorney representing the Breazeales.

Excluding the acts of children from homeowners’ insurance should not be allowed in Louisiana, argued state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans. The state Senate Insurance Committee, despite the opposition of the insurance companies, agreed, advancing Murray’s Senate Bill 69 to the full Senate for consideration.

SB69 would prohibit insurers that would render any such provision “null, and void and unenforceable as contrary to public policy.”

Mrs. Breazeale, sitting in a wheelchair and wearing darkened glasses, was beaten in August 2010 by a special education student she taught at a school in Mandeville. Her head was beaten against cinder blocks. The child was on medication for aggression at the time.

The Breazeales, as well as other insurers, sought to recompense for the medical bills from the child’s family’s homeowners’ policy with Bankers’ Insurance Group. But the policy specifically excluded the intentional acts of minors in the family.

The exclusion in the policy meant that the insurance company would not cover the damages caused by the child. The Breazeales lost the lawsuit and appeal.

“It doesn’t affect our case anymore. We wanted to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” said Mrs. Breazeale, apologizing for her halting speech and occasional lapses of memory. “The medication they got me on,” she said by way of explanation.

Insurance Committee Chairman Dan “Blade” Morrish, R-Jennings, read the names of a dozen or so opponents to legislation, all employed by insurance companies. But only one wished to speak.

Kevin Cunningham is a Baton Rouge lobbyist representing the American Insurance Association. He testified against SB69.

Cunningham said exclusions are a tool that insurance companies use to tailor their product to the needs and pricing the customer wants.

The legislation would limit the insurers flexibility and could lead some customers to being unable to purchase protection.

“If you don’t your policy, read it. If people would read their policies and don’t like the exclusions, they go somewhere else” to buy the insurance, Cunningham said.

Senators voted without objection to report the bill favorably to the full Senate.