Renters Insurance And Misrepresentation

De Soto insurance lawyers who handle renters insurance need to read this case from the Houston Court of Appeals [1st. Dist.]. It is styled Zatorski v. USAA Texas Lloyds.
After Zatorski’s home was burglarized, he sued USAA, alleging that USAA had represented to Zatorski that his renter’s insurance policy would cover greater losses than it did. USAA moved for summary judgment and the trial court granted the motion. This appeals Court affirmed the ruling.
Zatorski owned a high-rise, loft residence in Houston. In October 2009, a kitchen pipe broke and flooded the loft. Zatorski rented a single-family home while the loft was being repaired, and he called USAA to buy a renter’s insurance policy. He spoke with a USAA representative, paid for a one-year renter’s insurance policy over the phone, and did not review the written policy when he received it.
In June 2010, armed intruders broke into Zatorski’s rental home and stole several firearms and his safe, which contained watches, jewelry, and cash; the items stolen had a total value of over $260,000. Zatorski made a claim against his rental policy for the value of the stolen items, and USAA responded that the policy limits were $1,000 for theft of jewelry, $2,000 for theft of firearms, and $200 for theft of cash. USAA paid Zatorski $4,500, which constituted payment of the policy limits for jewelry, firearms, and cash, plus $1,300 for the loss of the safe.
Zatorski sued asserting claims for misrepresentation under the Insurance Code and the DTPA, among other things. Zatorski alleged that he told the USAA representative that he wanted “full coverage” for all of the items that would be in his rental home, and specifically mentioned that he has “numerous luxury watches, jewelry, and flat-screen television monitors among other things.” According to Zatorski’s petition, the representative assured him that he would have “‘full coverage,’ including full coverage for the valuables, including the watches and other jewelry.”
USAA’s primary argument was that its representative’s alleged representations regarding the rental policy’s coverage were too vague to be actionable and that Zatorski was charged with knowledge of the contents of the policy and therefore could not have relied upon any contrary alleged misrepresentations.
USAA contended that there was no evidence that it made an actionable misrepresentation to Zatorski. Zatorski asserted that the motion should be denied because he “was very specific on what he wanted to be covered,” asked whether jewelry, watches, firearms, and flat-panel screens would all be covered by the policy, and was told “everything’s covered,” and specifically, that his watch collection was “fully covered.”
Generally, to prevail on a misrepresentation claim under the Insurance Code or the DTPA, an insurance policyholder must identify a specific misrepresentation upon which he relied. General claims by the insurer of the adequacy or sufficiency of coverage are not generally actionable.
Zatorski testified:
I’d specifically said I wanted it–him to cover all my jewelery, my watch collection. I had guns. I had computer screens. I had expensive computers that I use for my work. I had flat-panel screens. I had probably eight or nine of those, and I have expensive furniture and clothing.
According to Zatorski’s testimony, he told the USAA representative that he wanted “full coverage for, like, if someone breaks in my house when I’m gone and steals everything.” The USAA representative told him that “everything’s covered,” and “Yes, you’re covered fully.”
The evidence also showed that Zatorski did not tell the representative the value of any of the items for which he sought to buy coverage. Zatorski conceded that he “didn’t say a specific number. I just said ‘valuables and jewelry . . . watches, guns.'” USAA confirmed, “So, you did not give them a dollar value?” and Zatorski responded, “No . . . he asked me what I think I needed, and I told him and so, he gave me the policy that would cover everything.” Zatorski confirmed that he “didn’t discuss specifically the dollar value of his watches,” either individually or as a group, and that he did not discuss the value of his firearms as a group. He testified,
I discuss–I discussed the value of–when I was on the phone with him, sitting there and calculating up, “How much do you think I need to cover?” If you added up all those items, what I needed and he asked me what I needed.
I said, “Well, hold on. I have this. I have that. I have watches. I have–” so, I was, like, “Let me see.”
And we had a discussion about it–detailed discussion about it. I said, “I’ll probably need, you know, X amount.” He said, “Okay. You get this policy.” I said, “It’s fully covered?”
He said, “Yes.”

Thus, although the evidence showed that Zatorski did confirm that certain types of items would be covered under the rental policy, it also shows that Zatorski never told the representative the value of the items. At most, the evidence showed that Zatorski told the representative that the value of “this,” “that,” and the “watches” together was “X amount.” There is no evidence showing what “X amount” was.
Zatorski does not complain that any of the types of items that he discussed with the representative were not covered by the rental policy. He disputes only the limits of coverage for watches, guns, and jewelry. But by Zatorski’s own admission, he failed to give the USAA representative the dollar value of each category of items for which he wanted coverage. Moreover, nearly $50,000 of the amount claimed by Zatorski was comprised of cash, and there is no evidence that Zatorski mentioned cash to the USAA representative. Thus, representations that “everything’s covered” or “fully covered” cannot constitute an actionable misrepresentation.

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