Former Dartmouth students not liable for $4.5 million in grill fire

6/6/2001-Hanover, NH - Dartmouth Green on the campus of Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. (City/Region/Arden-Smith story) Globe Photo/JD Denham
Dartmouth College. –The Boston Globe, File

Two former Dartmouth College students who accidentally started a grill fire that gutted a dormitory in 2016 don’t have to reimburse the school’s insurance company for a $4.5 million claim, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled.

Fire officials said an unattended charcoal grill outside the window of a dorm room sparked the fire, which spread to the roof. The dorm’s 70 residents escaped, but needed new housing.

The Valley News reports that Factory Mutual Insurance Co. paid Dartmouth $4.5 million and then brought a claim against the former students, who went to court. A judge ruled in the students’ favor, saying that they had been coinsured by implication under the college’s fire insurance policy.

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Factory Mutual appealed. It also noted that Dartmouth’s student handbook prohibited charcoal grills and open flames in student dorms, and that violation of the policy “may” result in liability for damage if there’s a fire. The two students had said they were expelled for causing the fire.

The court, in its March 10 opinion, wrote that “treatment of the subject of insurance in the student handbook and other college documents reinforced a reasonable expectation that the responsibility to insure dormitory buildings was allocated to Dartmouth College.”

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