SECTION 1. Chapter 175 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting, after section 95B, the following section:-
Section 95C. (a) As used in this section, the following words shall have the following meanings unless context clearly requires otherwise:
“Confidential domestic violence information” means information about acts of domestic violence against a victim, information about a person’s domestic violence victim status, the address and telephone numbers of a victim of domestic violence and the whereabouts of a victim of domestic violence.
“Domestic violence” shall have the same meaning as “abuse” as defined in section 1 of chapter 209A.
“Domestic violence-related property damage claim” means a property damage claim by an innocent co-insured under a policy resulting from an act of domestic violence.
“Domestic violence victim status” means that a person is, has been, or is at substantial risk of being the subject of domestic violence.
“Innocent co-insured” means an insured who did not, directly or indirectly, plan, cooperate in, contribute to, conspire with or otherwise participate in the creation of the loss or conduct that caused the property damage giving rise to the domestic violence-related property claim. Innocent co-insured does not include persons who were directly or indirectly involved in causing a loss for the purpose of recovering insurance.
“Insured” means a person named on a property policy as an individual with legal rights to the benefits provided by such policy.
“Insurer” means an entity engaged in the business of residential property insurance in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. For purposes of this section only, the Massachusetts Fair Plan is considered a property insurer.
“Policy” means a contract of insurance covering residential property located in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
“Victim of domestic violence” means a person against whom an act of domestic violence has been directed; who has current or prior injuries, illnesses or disorders that result from domestic violence; or who seeks, may have sought or had reason to seek medical or psychological treatment for domestic violence; or protection, court-ordered protection or shelter from domestic violence.
(b) No property insurer shall deny, limit, restrict, exclude, or refuse to provide coverage for a domestic violence-related property damage claim filed under a property policy on the basis of an insured’s domestic violence victim status.
Notwithstanding contract language that would otherwise bar coverage due to the intentional nature of the conduct giving rise to a domestic violence-related property claim, no insurer delivering a policy in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts shall refuse to pay a domestic violence-related property damage claim when such a claim arises out of domestic violence committed by another person who is insured under the innocent co-insured’s property policy. Payments made under such circumstances may be limited to the extent of the innocent co-insured’s legal ownership interest in the covered property, as reduced by any payments to a mortgagor or other secured lienholder, up to the available limits of coverage provided by the policy.
Nothing herein is intended to prohibit insurers from denying claims where there is evidence of fraud or evidence of intent to cause a loss for the purpose of recovering insurance.
Nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit an insurer from engaging in ordinary claims investigation and from applying reasonable standards of proof relative to claims under this section.
Nothing herein is intended to create or compel coverage for claims that otherwise would not be covered due to conditions or exclusions that would apply irrespective of the intentional nature of the conduct giving rise to the claim.
(c) When a property insurer has information in its possession that clearly indicates that the insured is a subject of domestic violence, the insurer shall use reasonable efforts to protect against the disclosure or transfer of confidential domestic violence information, as defined in this section, to any person, except an insurer may disclose such information:
(1) to the victim of the domestic violence or to an individual specifically designated in writing by the victim of domestic violence;
(2) when ordered by the Commissioner of Insurance or a court of competent jurisdiction, when subpoenaed or when otherwise required by law; or
(3) when necessary for a valid business purpose in connection with the adjusting of the claim, including transacting business with reinsurers, consultants, attorneys, and agents.
(d) Any innocent co-insured aggrieved by any conduct prohibited by subsection 2 herein may bring an action in the Superior Court for recovery of the benefits payable under the policy in accordance with this section.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect on January 1, 2020.
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