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Animals cannot commit vandalism and malicious mischief (US)

14 October 2019 Patrick Bracher, Norton Rose Fulbright
Patrick Bracher

Patrick Bracher

An insured sued under their Dwelling Policy for a substantial amount of damage that had been caused to their home by racoons which somehow entered the dwelling. They relied on the cover provided for ‘vandalism and malicious mischief’ which cannot be applied to animals, said the Pennsylvania court.

Not surprisingly, the court found that ‘vandalism’ implies deliberately destroying or damaging property and ‘malicious’ means intending or intended to do harm. Raccoons and their companions in the animal kingdom cannot formulate the intent to engage in vandalism, malicious mischief or any other criminal or actionable conduct.

Animals do not have conscious agency and are not subjects of human law. The plain language meaning of the words precluded the claim.

Previous courts in the US have reached similar conclusions regarding a deer which leapt through a glass door and out of a window, and damage caused to a property by a bobcat.

The case is Capital Flip, LLC v American Modern Select Insurance Company.

 

First published by: Financial Institutions Legal Snapshot

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