ANNAPOLIS – A Baltimore man’s insurance company should pay for repairs that his condominium association made in his home to stop water from damaging a neighboring unit, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled Tuesday.
The court upheld a trial court’s 1995 summary judgment against Aetna Insurance Company, which until 1989 insured Albert G. Aaron, of the Warrington Condominium, located on N. Charles Street near Johns Hopkins University.
In 1993, Aaron’s condominium association sued him to collect almost $100,000 in repairs to stop an eight-year flow of water from Aaron’s glass-enclosed balcony into the residence below his.
Aaron wanted Aetna to pick up the repair bill and defend him in the suit — benefits he said his homeowner’s insurance policy provided.
Aetna refused, arguing that the policy’s property damage clause applied only to actual damage, not to repairs made to prevent damage to a neighbor.
The company further argued that it had no responsibilty under the policy’s personal liability clause. That clause, Aetna reasoned, specifically excluded damage to property owned by Aaron.
Both the trial and appellate court disagreed, saying Aetna had a duty both to defend Aaron against the association’s suit and to pay the repair costs.
The Court of Special Appeals, in its ruling, said the policy covered damage prevention, versus simple repairs, because the following conditions were met:
* Aaron’s property was causing actual damage to the property of another resident.
* There was imminent risk of additional harm if preventive measures were not taken.
* Aaron, the insured, had a duty to respond.
* The repairs undertaken did not merely benefit Aaron.
Hence, the appellate court said, Aetna should pay for the repairs.
In addressing Aetna’s duty to defend Aaron in the lawsuit, the court made the connection between such defense and coverage. “An insurer has a duty to defend its insured if the claim…is covered, or even potentially covered, by the applicable insurance policy,” the court said.
Edward C. Bacon, attorney for Aetna, said he would not comment on the decision as he is “waiting to hear from his client as to whether they will pursue a further appeal.” Neither Aaron nor Brian C. Parker, his attorney, was available for comment. -30-