- Acumen Powered by Robins Kaplan LLP®
- Affirmative Recovery
- American Indian Law and Policy
- Antitrust and Trade Regulation
- Appellate Advocacy and Guidance
- Business Litigation
- Civil Rights and Police Misconduct
- Class Action Litigation
- Commercial/Project Finance and Real Estate
- Corporate Governance and Special Situations
- Corporate Restructuring and Bankruptcy
- Domestic and International Arbitration
- Health Care Litigation
- Insurance and Catastrophic Loss
- Intellectual Property and Technology Litigation
- Mass Tort Attorneys
- Medical Malpractice Attorneys
- Personal Injury Attorneys
- Telecommunications Litigation and Arbitration
- Wealth Planning, Administration, and Fiduciary Disputes
Acumen Powered by Robins Kaplan LLP®
Ediscovery, Applied Science and Economics, and Litigation Support Solutions
March 28, 2023Robins Kaplan LLP Announces 2023 Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) Fellow and Pathfinder
March 22, 2023Benchmark Litigation Names Robins Kaplan 2023 Minnesota Law Firm of the Year
March 16, 2023Second Circuit Affirms Record $5.6 Billion Recovery in Antitrust Case
March 29-30, 2023ACI Managed Care Disputes and Litigation
April 3, 2023Conference of Tribal Lending Commissioners
April 11-13, 2023Mass Torts Made Perfect Seminar
March 2023Unintended Consequences of Banning Noncompete Agreements
March 26, 2023What I’ll Be Watching for in the Amgen Oral Arguments
March 13, 2023The Antitrust Case that Could Reshape Professional Golf
September 16, 2022Uber Company Systems Compromised by Widespread Cyber Hack
September 15, 2022US Averts Rail Workers Strike With Last-Minute Tentative Deal
September 14, 2022Hotter-Than-Expected August Inflation Prompts Massive Wall Street Selloff
Find additional firm contact information for press inquiries.
Find resources to help navigate legal and business complexities.
What’s in a Name?
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Sheds Light on Potential Coverage Implications
of “DBA” Designations
June 7, 2022
By: Michele N. Detherage, Esq.
It is no secret that wording matters when it comes to the interpretation of an insurance policy. Recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a decision indicating that this is particularly true when it comes to the use of a “doing business as” aka “dba” designation while identifying a named insured.
The case at issue is Masonic Ass’n of Quincy, Inc. v. Patel, 489 Mass. 549 (2022). While renovating a masonic temple, a crew of workers set the building on fire, nearly causing it to burn to the ground.1 At the time of the fire, Jay Patel (“Patel”) was the holder of a purchase and sale agreement to buy the temple for the purpose of converting it to a mixed-use space and boutique hotel.2 Patel owns Dipika, Inc. (“Dipika”), an entity operating a Super 8 motel in Weymouth.3 Neither the P&S nor related assignment documents reference Dipika.4
During Patel’s stewardship of the renovation, the charitable masonic corporation who held the temple (the “Masons”) requested that he provide them with proof of insurance for the project.5 Patel contacted Roblin Insurance Agency (“Roblin”) who had acted as Dipika’s agent when it acquired, inter alia, a general liability insurance policy for the Super 8 motel (the “Policy”) from Union Insurance Company (“Union”).6 Roblin transmitted a certificate of insurance listing the Masons as “Certificate Holder” and posed a number of follow-up questions to Patel concerning the relationship between the temple and Dipika. Those questions went unanswered.7 No additional insurance coverage was procured by Patel or Dipika.8 Several months later, the fire occurred, causing extensive damage to the temple.9 Patel notified Union of the event and requested coverage under the Policy.10 As expressed by the court, “[a] tangle of litigation ensued” involving the Masons, Patel, Union, Dipika, Dipika’s excess carrier and others.11 12
At the core of the parties’ coverage dispute was the fact that the named insured listed in the policy declarations was “Dipika Inc. dba Super 8.”13 According to Dipika, all of its activities, whether related to the Super 8 motel or not, are covered under the Policy because “use of a ‘dba’ name does not create a separate legal entity” and the use of “‘dba Super 8’ merely clarifies that the Weymouth Super 8 business was included within the broader Dipika coverage.”14 In contrast, “Union’s stance is that the identification of the named insured as ‘Dipika Inc. dba Super 8’ means that the policy covers only liability arising from Dipika’s activities doing business as the Super 8.”15
As a threshold matter, the court “decline[d] the invitation of both parties to establish a bright-line rule that a ‘dba’ designation means either everything or nothing.”16 Instead, the court engaged in its analysis based upon the wording of the Policy as a whole and found that it unambiguously does not provide coverage for the losses stemming from the fire.17
While not considered by the court to be determinative on its own, the plain meaning of the “dba Super 8 designation” was deemed an important factor in the analysis.18 The court found additional support for its finding of no coverage in other sections of the Policy.19 For instance, the declarations provided a “Business Description” of “Motel.”20 Further, “the policy indicates that its premium was based on the gross revenue generated at a single location, which could only have been the existing Super 8.”21 “Taken together, these provisions clearly express that the policy does not cover Dipika’s losses arising out of the Temple fire.”22 23 Ultimately, the court held that Union had neither a duty to defend nor to indemnify Dipika’s liabilities associated with the fire and that the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in Union’s favor had been proper.24 25
In sum, while the Massachusetts SJC declined to endorse a “bright-line” rule linking dba designations and insurance coverage (or lack thereof), its decision in Masonic Temple indicates that such designations will play an important role in determining the scope of policies moving forward.26
The articles on our website include some of the publications and papers authored by our attorneys, both before and after they joined our firm. The content of these articles should not be taken as legal advice. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or official position of Robins Kaplan LLP.
Damned if You Don’t
In Times of Crisis:
If you are interested in having us represent you, you should call us so we can determine whether the matter is one for which we are willing or able to accept professional responsibility. We will not make this determination by e-mail communication. The telephone numbers and addresses for our offices are listed on this page. We reserve the right to decline any representation. We may be required to decline representation if it would create a conflict of interest with our other clients.
By accepting these terms, you are confirming that you have read and understood this important notice.