If Margie didn’t believe that black cats were the harbinger of bad luck, she certainly believed it when a black cat brushed against her leg while she was leaning over a large trash can burning garbage one late afternoon.
Startled by the sudden appearance of the feline, Margie opened her mouth wide and let out a blood-curdling scream that could have awakened Count Dracula himself.
Unfortunately, Margie also opened her mouth wide enough for her false teeth to fall in the the trash can. Destroyed beyond repair, Margie filed a claim with her insurance company to recover enough money to replace her dentures.
“Fortunately,” she told an insurance company representative, “my policy covers me for any loss caused by fire.”
“That may be true,” responded an agent for the company, “but only if your property is destroyed by a fire out of control. The fire in your trash can wasn’t out of control.”
If you were the judge, would you require the insurance company to buy Margie a new set of dentures?
This is how the judge ruled: No!
The judge held that a fire confined to its intended place is not a fire within the meaning of a fire insurance policy. This type of fire is called “a friendly fire,” as opposed to a hostile fire that has escaped its confines.
In Margie’s case, concluded the judge, “Margie’s loss was due to a “friendly fire” and was not covered by her policy.
(Based on a 1955 Indiana Court of Appeals decision.)
Jack Strauss, a retired New York City trial attorney who now resides in Berea, wrote a syndicated column for 36 years called, “What’s the Law?” It appeared in papers coast to coast, including the Pittsburgh Press, the Los Angeles Examiner, the Hartford Times, the Kansas City Star and the Philadelphia Daily News, among many others. It appears here with his permission.