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Insurer won’t defend landlord after fatal accident

Must State Farm pay despite cancelled policy?

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Editor's note: Robert Bruss is temporarily away. The following column from Bruss' "Best of" collection first appeared Sunday, March 12, 2006. James McGowan owned a four-unit apartment building where Lori Dutton and her 4-year-old daughter, Amy, lived in one of the apartments. McGowan sold the building to Mohammed Hakeem in May 2001. Dutton and her daughter continued to occupy the apartment. In September 2001, McGown cancelled his State Farm property owner's insurance policy. Purchase Bob Bruss reports online. During a thunderstorm in October 2001, a rotting tree next to the building collapsed onto the Dutton apartment, killing Amy. Dutton subsequently sued former owner, McGowan, for damages. She alleged McGowan was negligent during the time he owned the building by failing to correct the dangerous condition created by the rotting tree and his negligence caused or contributed to Amy's death. McGowan tendered defense of Dutton's lawsuit to State Farm, his former insurer. State Farm refu...