In Orne, a family has its insurance bent in court

The case was tried before the Caen Court of Appeal. ©Isabelle Innoncenti

The First Civil Chamber of the Caen Court of Appeal disavowed the Le Mans Insurance Mutuals (MMA)who have been refusing for eight years to compensate a family of Vidai, victim of a 2014 arson attack on their home.

As a reminder, in this case, Sébastien X. had sold in July 2014 for 160,000 euros this house insured with MMA at Agricultural Land Group (GFA) of Oaks, in which his father Michel and his younger brother Mickaël are partners. But, more than three months later, theOctober 31, 2014she had then been completely destroyed by fire.

The firefighters had intervened following a call from the former owner, but too late: he and his younger brother were “angry” and he had therefore “not seen fit to call the emergency services sooner”, had he been reported at the time in the press.

A family dispute

A few months earlier, May 19, 2014Sébastien X. had effectively resigned from the Groupement foncier agricole “in a context of deep disagreement between partners”, recalls the minutes of the extraordinary general meeting confirming his departure.

the November 26, 2014the GFA des Chênes had nevertheless maintained his wish to buy the burnt house: the sales agreement provided that “if a disaster struck the property during the validity of the contract, the purchaser would have the option (…) to be awarded the indemnities likely to be paid by (…) the insurance company (…), even if they exceed the agreed price”. And that is exactly what happened: the experts had evaluated the damage to 207,000 euros.

But the MMA had then refused to pay the money: the fire was “of criminal origin” and its author “necessarily the subscriber of the insurance policy, that is to say the beneficiary of the insurance indemnity”, hammered home the insurance company.

After the dismissal of their complaint for “arson”, she had constituted a civil party before an examining magistrate for “fraud” by targeting the manager of the Agricultural land group of Oaks and his son who had sold him the house.

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“The elements of the judicial information did not make it possible to identify the author or authors of these facts”, had nevertheless concluded the magistrate in his order of dismissal. “All of these elements, despite the various acts of investigation carried out, do not in any way allow the perpetrator to be identified, nor to demonstrate the active involvement of one or the other. »

A voluntary act

In parallel, a judicial expertise had then been ordered: the expert had also concluded that “only a voluntary act must be retained”.

“Traces” had indeed been observed on the window of the rear facade and “indicate a break-in”, he noted. “The markings made by the canine team indicate the presence of hydrocarbons” and “two firing points were noted”, he further indicated in his report.

“On the other hand, it does not conclude that the perpetrator of the facts can only be the subscriber of the insurance policy or the manager of the GFA des Chênes”, notes for its part the first civil chamber of the Court of Appeal of Caen in a judgment dated September 20, 2022 which has just been made public. ” [Le père et son fils] have always disputed the facts, and no testimony or material element can demonstrate their involvement. »

“The existence of a family conflict between Sébastien X. and (…) the manager of the GFA or even the proximity of Sébastien X.’s home to the place of the fire are only minimal clues, but not proof that one or the other is the author of the fire”, underline the judges.

“In conclusion, if it is established that the fire was deliberate (…), neither the criminal investigation (…) nor the investigation carried out by the investigating judge after multiple hearings and investigations nor the judicial expertise make it possible to determine the author or authors of this fire, ”summarize the Caen magistrates.

Under these conditions, the MMA will have to compensate the GFA des Chênesbut only from 144.297 € immediately as insurance compensation. For the €62,000 remainingthe company will have to prove within the next two years, with the invoices and supporting documents, that it has started the reconstruction work on the house.

Until then, in the meantime, the MMA are entitled to demand the reimbursement of this second sum, which had been allocated by the tribunal de grande instance of Alençon (Orne) on August 16, 2019.

Nor will the insurance company have to pay the €10,000 damages claimed by the Groupement foncier agricole for its “abusive resistance”.

CB / PressPepper for Perch

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