not consistent with that pattern. A jury reasonably could have rejected the plaintiffs' theory of the arson.
I know of no case law in Pennsylvania setting forth the quantum of evidence which is necessary to support an arson defense by an insurer. The standard is whether the evidence supported a reasonable and legitimate inference that the insured fraudulently burned the building or caused it to be burned. Ruttenberg v. Fire Insurance Co., 122 Pa. Super. 363, 370, 186 A. 194, 196 (1936). A reasonable inference is one not based on speculation or conjecture but rather is a logical consequence deduced from other proven facts. Commonwealth v. Whitman, 199 Pa. Super. 631, 634, 186 A.2d 632, 633 (1962). Although this inference must be reasoned from evidence presented, it need not be the only logical conclusion which a jury could reach. Smith v. Bell Telphone Co., 397 Pa. 134, 138, 153 A.2d 477, 480 (1959).
To support their argument that there is sufficient evidence of Mr. Mele's responsibility for the fire, defendants cite numerous state criminal cases reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence in arson convictions. Although the standard of proof is more demanding in criminal matters than in this case, those decisions are informative to demonstrate that limited circumstantial evidence showing defendant's connection with the fire may be sufficient to support a verdict if there is clear evidence of an incendiary origin and of the arsonist's strong motive to destroy the structure. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Tomaino, 168 Pa. Super. 505, 79 A.2d 274 (1951); Commonwealth v. DeMartini, 125 Pa. Super. 392, 189 A.564 (1937). It is not necessary to present direct evidence that the arsonist started the fire. Commonwealth v. Nasuti, 385 Pa. 436, 444, 123 A.2d 435, 438 (1956); Commonwealth v. Margie, 165 Pa. Super. 84, 88, 68 A.2d 194, 196 (1949). Thus in a civil matter to determine whether a reasonable inference exists that an insured is responsible for the fire which damaged the insured property, a jury should consider the combination of evidence of: (1) an incendiary fire; (2) a motive by the insured to destroy the property and (3) circumstantial evidence connecting the insured to the fire.
I conclude that it is a reasonable and logical inference that Mr. Mele procured another to set the fire based upon the evidence of the incendiary origin, the substantial financial benefits plaintiffs might have derived from the fire and the inference that someone with a key and familiar with the structure and its contents set the fire. Although the jury logically could have concluded that someone having no connection with Mele set the fire, I do not find that this inference is so compelling that the jury's refusal to accept it was either seriously erroneous or a miscarriage of justice. I conclude, therefore, that the verdict for defendants is not against the weight of the evidence.
II. BARRING MARIE MELE'S RECOVERY DUE TO THE ARSON BY WILLIAM MELE:
Plaintiffs contend that the court committed fundamental error in refusing to charge that plaintiff Marie Mele was entitled to recover monetary damages irrespective of the jury's verdict as to the alleged arson by William Mele. I charged that under Pennsylvania law a wife, who was with her husband co-owner of the insured property and co-insured on a policy, would be barred from any recovery under that policy if her husband was responsible for the fire.
In Bowers Co. v. London Assurance Corp., 90 Pa. Super. 121 (1926), the court held that the fraud of one co-insured bars any recovery by others co-insured under the same policy. The court reasoned that recovery turns on whether the insurance contract is joint or is separable between the defrauder and the claimant. If it is joint, then all must be joined in an action on the contract. The court concluded that "[if] the action is joint it follows that recovery on the policy is prevented by the fraudulent act of either of the assured whether participated in by the other or not." 90 Pa. Super. at 127. Although in Bowers the interests of the co-insured in their property were not the same as those of plaintiffs here, the Bowers court noted that "[if] the insurance is taken in the joint names of two or more persons the general rule prevails and all the assured must join in the action." Id. at 126. I conclude that the Bowers rationale applies with equal force to the situation in this case. Supporting this conclusion is the decision by the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Matyuf v. Phoenix Insurance Co., 27 D. & C. 2d 351 (1933), addressing the precise issue raised here. The court there concluded that the acts of the husband in destroying the insured property barred his wife's recovery even though she was not involved at all in his fraudulent acts. The court held that an insurance contract issued jointly to co-owners imposes a joint obligation on the insured parties not to commit any fraudulent acts.
Considering the Bowers and Matyuf opinions together I find that the law in Pennsylvania is sufficiently clear so as to bind me to conclude that Marie Mele is barred by the fraudulent acts of her husband if the jury determined that he was responsible for the fire. Although plaintiffs cite decisions in other jurisdictions to the contrary, the law on this issue is not uniform elsewhere and does not justify a departure from this clear albeit somewhat vintage position of the Pennsylvania courts. Compare Howell v. Ohio Casualty Insurance Co., 130 N.J. Super. 350, 327 A.2d 240 (1974) with California Insurance Co. v. Allen, 235 F.2d 178 (5th Cir. 1956); Kosior v. Continental Insurance Co., 299 Mass. 601, 13 N.E.2d 423 (1938); Klemens v. Badger Mutual Insurance Co., 8 Wis. 2d 565, 99 N.W. 2d 865 (1959). I conclude, therefore, that there was no error made in charging the jury.
JOSEPH S. LORD, III, CH. J.