Jake Weinraub

Insurance Company Blames Lesbian Couple for Fire

Filed By Jake Weinraub | May 28, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Monroe County, PFLAG, Tennessee

The same lesbian Tennessee couple who sued a neighbor they suspect burned down their home and defaced it with anti-gay slurs queers-spray-paineted.jpgback in September 2010 are now facing a law suit of their own. Carol Ann and Laura Stutte received word that their insurance company, American National Property and Casualty Company is accusing them of intentionally starting the fire, despite the case still being under investigation by local authorities and the FBI.

PFLAG member and attorney David Massey is taking up the case, claiming that the insurance company is looking to avoid being responsible for the couple's settlement of $880,000:

My reaction to the lawsuit is that this is an insurance company that declined to pay their claim and is looking for a way to get out of paying the claim. I don't know what kind of evidence they claim to have, but whatever it is, I wouldn't believe it, because I believe them, I believe in them, I believe in their integrity, and all of us in PFLAG believe that they are the victims.

Ann and Stutte claim that their neighbor in suspect had harassed them over a five-year period before the fire.

Check out this news report from WBIR:

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Why does this not surprise me?

WTF! It takes 6 months to determine how the fire was set? It was arson by someone because the couple was out of town when it happened. If I lived in Tennessee I would be packing it up and moving out of the state.

WTF, indeed!
I'm sure it's obvious it was an ARSON fire. What's in evidence is that it was deliberately set. How the insurance company can blame this couple is outrageous. They WERE out of town!
To say they have evidence the couple did it, is blatant slander and they need to be held accountable for it. TN is such a horrible place for gay people. You have the bill going forward to not even mention the word around school kids, you have a couple's home burned to the ground, ONLY thankfully while they weren't in it.

My God, is there no bottom to the cowardice of the anti gay and how far they will take it out on gay people. This couple PAID THEIR PREMIUMS, fair and square.
So it's okay to take money from gay people, then suddenly make excuses for not providing the service paid for?

What. The. F**k?!

Leigh Anne | May 29, 2011 2:00 PM

Odd accusation, indeed! But every homeowner policy I ever had excluded arson. Isn't that always the case?

Hi Leigh Anne,
Yes, such policies exclude arson if the policy holder did it for their own gain. When there is proof an outside party committed the act, other than the policy holder, the insurance company is still obligated to honor the claim. Usually home owner insurance covers comprehensive liability, which means acts of vandalism and theft and other criminal acts against the homeowner.

The insurance company isn't working WITH local law enforcers who have a record of threats and other issues against this couple. The investigation standard that requires a motive, opportunity and method of the crime, points definitively AWAY from this couple.
The insurance company is acting outside of this evidence and they are more than wrong for doing so. As long as there is no evidence this couple did it, the insurance company has no claim to deny them. It's now THEIR motive for doing so that deserves to be questioned.

Leigh Anne | May 29, 2011 2:57 PM

So if SOMEONE ELSE sets the fire, it's covered. Hmmmm. ;)

Truly is an odd accusation! Remote arson....

Possibly the Insurance Company is claiming that by being overtly lesbian in Tennessee, they deliberately courted having their house burnt down when they were away.

Much as a black professional couple moving to Alabama in the 1920s would be seen as deliberately asking for trouble.

I used to represent insurance companies contesting coverage in court. It's not necessarily true that they have overwhelming evidence that the couple set the fire themselves. That would indeed be distressing. But often times, there's simply an assertion of a financial motive and that there is a lack of evidence as to who set the fire, making it possible to claim that the fire is not inconsistent with the homeowner setting the fire. The insurer uses evidence as to fire pattern to suggest a homeowner arson. There is a cottage industry in fire investigators who will write such reports for the insurer. The insurer then uses a lawsuit as a bargaining chip to negotiate a lower payout.

And in Tennessee... the Insurance company just might win, no matter how tenuous the evidence. It's on "balance of probabilities", right? All the Insurance company may have to do is show that it wasn't impossible - that they might have hired some unknown person or persons, or set some kind of timing device, and had a financial incentive to do it. The victims can't prove that they didn't, though I think they can prove that they weren't physically present at the time, being in another state and all.

Homophobia does the rest. If they were Trans, it would be open-and-shut, they wouldn't stand a chance. Lesbian? I don't know. Maybe I'm giving too little credit to the Tennessee Justice system. Given the mistrial in the case of Duanna Johnson's assault, and the overwhelming public support in rural areas for HB600, I don't think so though.

I think it likely that since the victims have had to keep on paying mortgage repayments, and also find alternate accomodations and other things - they lost everything in the fire - all the insurance company has to do is spin out proceedings till they run out of money to fight, and so win by default. There's no down-side for them here, is there?