FAITH AUSTIN-CASARES v. SAFECO INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, SC 19081
Judicial District of Hartford
Insurance; Intervention; Whether Mortgagee’s Motion to Intervene in Suit Against Homeowners Insurer was Properly Denied as Untimely. On October 26, 2008, a fire damaged the plaintiff’s home in Andover. The company that issued the plaintiff’s homeowners policy, defendant Safeco Insurance, refused to cover the loss, and the plaintiff brought this action claiming breach of the insurance contract on October 15, 2009. On March 22, 2011, BSI Financial Services, Inc. (BSI), the holder of the mortgage on the plaintiff’s home, moved to intervene as a party plaintiff in this suit, claiming a right to be paid first from any proceeds of the homeowners policy. Safeco objected, claiming that BSI’s motion to intervene was untimely. Safeco argued that the parties’ rights were governed by the insurance policy and that a “suit against us” clause in the policy provided that any action against the insurer had to be brought within one year after the loss or damage. The trial court denied BSI’s motion to intervene, finding that the “suit against us” provision in the policy and its one year time limitation unambiguously applied to mortgagee BSI and that, as BSI did not seek to intervene within a year of the October 26, 2008 fire, it had not established that it was entitled to intervene as a matter of right. The court also found no basis for permissive intervention. BSI appeals, claiming it was entitled to intervene as a matter of right or to permissive intervention because it has a direct and substantial interest in the subject matter of the litigation and because its motion to intervene was timely. BSI claims that the trial court wrongly looked to the merits of its motion to intervene in deciding that it was untimely. After hearing oral argument in this appeal, the Appellate Court moved that it be transferred to the Supreme Court, citing confusion in the caselaw concerning the standard of review to be applied to a trial court’s decision regarding the timeliness of a motion to intervene. The Supreme Court granted the motion for transfer and will consider whether the trial court properly denied BSI’s motion to intervene.