Attorney Marilyn M. Smith Featured in LA Lawyer Magazine

Attorney Marilyn M. Smith Featured in LA Lawyer Magazine

Our firm is excited to announce that our founding attorney Marilyn M. Smith was featured in the July/August edition of the Los Angeles Lawyer, where she shares invaluable insights regarding the legal and ethical obligations of insurance companies to homeowners following dog bite incidents.

In collaboration with Attorney Gordon M. Park, Attorney Smith sheds a valuable spotlight on injustice by evasive insurers following animal attacks. This exceptional legal resource is bound to empower other beneficiaries to exercise their rights accordingly to secure the just outcomes they deserve following a dog bite or other “covered” incidents under the terms of their policies.

Dua v. Stillwater

In her article, Attorney Smith breaks down some key details in the 2023 case Dua v. Stillwater, a recent ruling made by the California Supreme Court back in May, and its implications for the rights of policyholders. The dispute began when Dua’s insurer, Stillwater, denied coverage following a dog attack, refusing to defend Dua under her homeowner’s insurance policy despite being legally obligated to do so.

“Dua’s homeowner’s insurance policy with Stillwater Insurance Company had the usual language that promised to indemnify and defend her if she was sued for an occurrence covered by the policy, which was not otherwise excluded from coverage,” the article states. “The policy language included a promise to defend Dua even if the allegations against her were ‘frivolous, groundless, false or fraudulent.’”

Homeowners’ Policies & Animal Liability Exclusions

Attorney Smith goes on to explain that Dua’s policy included three “separate and not identically worded” Animal Liability Exclusions, including:

  1. The incident occurred on the insured residence premises;
  2. The insured had ownership, care, custody or control of the animal; and/or
  3. The person who did own or control the animal was a resident of the insured’s residence premises or a member of her household.

“However, all three had the same three elements,” the article reads. “Which, if even one of them was established, would preclude any coverage under the policy.”

Dua was predictably shocked when Stillwater denied her coverage, seeing as none of the above elements applied to her case.

“After investigating for less than two days, the Stillwater claims adjuster (who later admitted in a deposition that she knew that none of the facts required for the exclusion to apply was present) still denied Dua’s claim for indemnity and defense without even a reservation of rights,” the article goes on to say.

Although Stillwater argued that there was “no possibility of coverage” under the terms of Dua’s policy, Attorney Smith says in the article, “We disagree. Stillwater failed to meet its burden of establishing it was entitled to summary judgment on Dua’s breach of contract claim, and the trial court erred in granting it summary judgment.”

Fortunately, Dua successfully exercised her rights under her homeowner’s policy to hold her insurer accountable for their unjust actions. “This appellate decision in favor of Poonam Dua is but one victorious battle, albeit a crucial one, in vindicating Dua’s rights as a policyholder,” the article concludes. “Time will tell if this decision will compel insurers, like Stillwater, [...] to provide their insured with a defense, even if pursuant to a reservation of rights.”

Contact Our Skilled Pasadena Attorney

Following a profound family tragedy, Attorney Marilyn M. Smith embarked on a remarkable journey that would shape her career and impact the lives of countless others, propelling her to become a driving legal force after a major court decision shaped uninsured motorist laws.

Empowered by personal experiences and passion for justice, she forged a hard-earned reputation as an award-winning lawyer in Los Angeles, establishing the Marilyn Smith Law APC to serve Californians in need in our community. For decades, our firm has provided our clients with effective legal solutions and sound counsel in their times of need, obtaining justice for countless individuals.

Our skilled advocate specializes in civil litigation, with a focus on insurance, torts, family law, elder abuse, and personal injury law. Her wealth of legal experience and knowledge also extends to adult disabled children, mental health, and substance abuse.

Call (626) 317-6068 or contact us online to secure high-end legal representation for your insurance, family, and probate needs.