What to do about a possible pending lawsuit against an estate?

My father recently passed away and I am the executor of the estate. While my father was alive a pit bull that was living at the house got loose and attacked a neighbor’s dog and bit the owner. The owner pursued compensation from my father’s homeowner’s insurance policy and as neither the dog or the owner (my brother) were listed on the policy the company claims they are not liable. I understand the victim still wishes to pursue some sort of compensation and am concerned they will try to go after the estate. Can they sue the entire estate or merely my brother’s portion of it?

Asked on October 24, 2011 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  Now down to business. Okay so you have a few issues here.  First, never take the insurance company's disclaimer as being valid right from the get go. You need to look at the policy - or have someone look at it for you - to see if there is any clause that allows coverage for guests or really occupants of the home.  He was his son and people and pets do not generally have to be listed on policies specifically to be covered.  This is a house for pet's sake not a car insurance policy.  You may need to bring a declaratory judgement action as against the insurance company.  You have that right - and probably that obligation - under the estate.  Now, can the victim still sue the estate?  Whether or not that lawsuit can be sustained is beyond the scope here as more facts and a review of the law is needed.  But will they sue the estate?  Of course they will.  And name your brother as well.  Get help.  Good luck. 


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