Great American Insurance Company v. ChristyAnnotate this Case
Defendants Robert Christy, Christy & Tessier, P.A., Debra Johnson, and Kathy Tremblay, appealed a superior court decision that rescinded a professional liability policy issued by Plaintiff Great American Insurance Company (GAIC), to the law firm of Christy & Tessier, P.A. Robert Christy (Christy) and Thomas Tessier (Tessier) were partners in the firm, practicing together for over forty-five years. In 1987, Frederick Jakobiec, M.D. (Jakobiec) retained Tessier to draft a will for him. In 2001, Jakobiec's mother, Beatrice Jakobiec (Beatrice), died intestate. Her two heirs were Jakobiec and his brother, Thaddeus Jakobiec (Thaddeus). Jakobiec asked Tessier, who was Beatrice's nephew, to handle the probate administration for his mother's estate. From 2002 through 2005, Tessier created false affidavits and powers of attorney, which he used to gain unauthorized access to estate accounts and assets belonging to Jakobiec and Thaddeus. Litigation ensued; two months after Tessier and Jakobiec entered into the settlement agreement, Christy executed a renewal application for professional liability coverage on behalf of the law firm. Question 6(a) on the renewal application asked: "After inquiry, is any lawyer aware of any claim, incident, act, error or omission in the last year that could result in a professional liability claim against any attorney of the Firm or a predecessor firm?" Christy's answer on behalf of the firm was "No." The trial court found that Christy's negative answer to the question in the renewal application was false "since Tessier at least knew of Dr. Jakobiec's claim against him in 2006." On appeal, the defendants argued that rescission was improper because: (1) Christy's answer to question 6(a) on the renewal application was objectively true; (2) rescission of the policy or denial of coverage would be substantially unfair to Christy and the other innocent insureds who neither knew nor could have known of Tessier's fraud; and (3) the alleged misrepresentation was made on a renewal application as opposed to an initial policy application. GAIC argued that rescission as to all insureds is the sole appropriate remedy given the material misrepresentations in the law firm's renewal application. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the trial court erred as a matter of law in ruling that Tessier's knowledge is imputed to Christy and the other defendants thereby voiding the policy ab initio. The Court made no ruling, however, as to whether any of the defendants' conduct would result in non-coverage under the policy and remanded for further proceedings.