FSPO – Decision Ref: 2018-0184. Rejection of liability insurance claim
The complainants made a claim under their home insurance policy arising from an injury suffered to a neighbour following the escape of the complainants dog. The Insurance company declined this liability insurance claim.
The Complainants Case
The complainants state while they were out of the country there was a bad storm which caused damage to their fencing around the house thereby allowing the dog (a Staffordshire Bull Terrier) to escape. Thereafter the complainants dog got into an altercation with a neighbours dog. The neighbour who owned the second dog sough to intervene and, and in the course of striking the complainants dog suffered an injury to her wrist. This neighbour brought a legal claim for compensation against the complainants in respect of a liability insurance claim.
The Insurers Case
The insurance company declined the claim on the basis that the policy excludes cover in respect of the complainants dog which is a restricted breed under the Control of Dogs Acts Regulations. The policy also excludes cover where dogs of such restricted breed are not muzzled and under effective control (i.e. on a leash) at all times. The Insurer relies on the fact that the incident occurred in a public area in circumstances where the Complainants dog was not muzzled and not on a leash therefore they would not accept responsibility for a liability insurance claim.
Policy Terms and Conditions
Insurer has identified Section 1: liability to Others of the policy in support of its decision to decline the claim. This section provides for an exclusion of liability in respect of the following:
The ownership, possession or use of any animal, but this exclusion does not apply to ponies, saddle horses, domestic cats and dogs (other than dangerous dogs, as specified in Regulations made under the Control of Dogs Acts or amendments thereto, unless such dogs are, at all times, muzzled, under effective control, and capable of identification)
The Regulations made under the Control of Dogs Acts refer to the Control of Dog Regulations as set out in Statutory Instrument 442 of 1998. Section 5(1) of these Regulations set out a list of certain breeds of dog and include, at letter (j) thereof, Staffordshire Bull Terriers.
Section (2) A person shall not permit a dog to which this article applies to be in a public place unless such dog is:
- Securely muzzled; and
- Being led by a sufficiently strong chain or leash, not exceeding two metres in length, by a person over the age of sixteen years who is capable of controlling the said dog
The FSPO accept that the complainants breed of dog has been categorised in the Regulation as such a dangerous dog and accepts that the insurance company was entitled to rely on the exclusion provided that one of the exceptions to the exclusion does not apply.
The relevant exceptions are that the exclusion will not apply, in the event that the dog was at all times muzzled and under effective control.
In this case the complainants dog was not muzzled and was not under effective control. The FSPO accepts that the insurance company was entitled to rely on the exclusion and was entitled to decline to provide cover to the complainants liability insurance claim
The FSPO accept that this may have happened as a result of a strong storm and that it may have happened in the absence of negligence on the part of the Complainants, this is not relevant for the purpose of assessing the validity of the insurance company’s reliance on the exclusion for the liability insurance claim.
The FSPO does not uphold this complaint.