Carrier has to prove arson in a civil case.

Back to work after a lonnnnnnng Holiday break…..

Going to trial soon against a large national carrier for failing to pay on a fire claim. The facts are pretty straightforward – my client[the insured] owned a rental property on the south side. He purchased insurance for the building. Not long thereafter, the building burned to the ground. Physical evidence at the scene [multiple empty gas cans] certainly suggests the fire was intentionally set. And the fire experts hired by the carrier are going to opine the fire was intentionally set. And as far as I can tell, that is all the carrier intends to prove.

But, the defendant has to prove something else. Under Illinois law, when arson is raised as a defense, the defendant has to prove 1) the fire was intentionally set AND 2) the the insured set the fire, or had others set it for him. There isn’t any evidence pointing to my client as the source of the fire. There is no evidence he was even in the neighborhood on the day of the blaze. And there is no evidence he was under any sort of financial distress where he needed the insurance money. Additionally, there is no evidence he got other people to burn the building for him. The carrier’s argument, as best I can tell goes something like this….”This fire was intentionally set, and we think the plaintiff did it. We don’t have much evidence to back that up, but evidence is overrated.”

To be continued…