St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. v. Abhe & Svoboda, Inc., No. 14-2234 (8th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Abhe, an industrial painting contractor, used stationary leased barges as platforms while painting Pell Bridge over Narragansett Bay. Abhe changed insurance carriers three months into the project. St. Paul Fire did not request that Abhe complete an application, but accepted the application provided to its previous insurer in 2010. The attached schedule of vessels was outdated and did not include vessels leased for the Pell Bridge project. Abhe sent St. Paul an updated schedule in 2011, listing those vessels, but did not provide a 2010 survey that showed that one barge had non-watertight bulkheads. St. Paul did not attempt to survey any of the equipment, as it was entitled to do under the policy. After the barge sunk in a storm, St. Paul denied Abhe’s claims and sought a declaration that the policy was void under the doctrine of uberrimae fidei, which requires that parties to an insurance contract accord each other the highest degree of good faith. Abhe counterclaimed, alleging negligence. The district court granted St. Paul summary judgment, finding the package policy void because Abhe failed to disclose the survey. The Eight Circuit remanded, stating that reliance is an element of the defense, and that there are disputed issues of fact as to whether it is satisfied.