Six-Figure Victory for Insured Boat Owners

Boats at dock

Mase Mebane Seitz’s Curtis J. Mase and Tyler J. Rauh, together with JP Salas of Salas Law Firm, recently represented boat owners in a claim against their insurer, earning a settlement agreement of $250,000.00 after a federal judge found that a widely-used marine insurance policy contains ambiguous language. 

Mase Mebane Seitz has decades of admiralty and maritime law experience. This case is one of many in which Curtis J. Mase—2021 Lawyer of the Year for Admiralty & Maritime in Miami, Florida, according to US News and World Report—successfully argued a novel issue in admiralty and maritime law.

The marine insurance claims at issue arose from a grounding accident and onboard fire. After submitting a claim for the fire damage, the insurance company denied coverage under two exclusions. 

One exclusion precluded coverage for damage to the vessel’s engines unless the damage was caused by an “accidental external event.” The insurance company argued that, because the fire started onboard, the damage could not be caused by an external event, so they did not need to provide coverage for the engine damage.

Along with their co-counsel, JP Salas, Curtis J. Mase, and Tyler J. Rauh convinced the judge otherwise. The policy did not define what “external event” meant. Specifically, the policy is unclear as to what the event must be external: the vessel’s engines or the vessel itself? 

Curtis Mase and Tyler Rauh attacked that missing definition, arguing a fire that originates outside the engines should provide coverage because the policy says “external” event; it does not say “off-board” event. If the fire started outside the engines, then there should be coverage for damage to the engines.

The judge agreed. On a motion for partial summary judgment, the court found that the policy is ambiguous and, thus, must be interpreted in favor of the boat owners. The insurance company paid $250,000.00 for the claims shortly after the court’s decision.