Jury Rejects Fraud Claim Levelled Against Insurance Carrier

Style of Case: Ronnie Phillips v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company
Client: State Farm Fire and Casualty Company
Trial End Date: 3/11/2016
Court: Twentieth Judicial Circuit, St. Clair County, Illinois
Type of Case: First Party Common Law Fraud Claim
Judge: The Honorable Christopher Kolker
Reed Armstrong Lawyer who tried the case: Martin K. Morrissey and Michael J. Bedesky

Jury Verdict

In February 2010 plaintiff had purchased insurance for a building located in Belleville, Illinois; coverage was set at 80% of actual cash value. In May 2010 a fire occurred at the structure severely damaging part of the building. Defendant carrier adjusted the loss and paid the plaintiff the full policy limits of $436,800 within thirty days of the loss.
In July 2011 it was discovered that an underwriting error had occurred concerning the original measurements and thus proposed coverage figures for the structure. Defendant re-measured the property and proposed a policy reformation which, according to defendant, had been accepted by the plaintiff in November 2011 for the payment of a relatively small additional policy premium. Thereafter the loss was readjusted in relation to a further reformed policy limit, and those limits were ultimately paid.

Plaintiff argued that common law fraud occurred in relation to the mistaken square footage estimate before and after its discovery, and he also denied that a reformation of the policy had occurred. Plaintiff also argued that the actual cash value of the structure was higher than the amount eventually proposed for the policy reformation. Defendant countered that when the innocent mistake was discovered it was remedied through an appropriate reformation, and denied any fraud in relation to the transaction and the ultimate reformation. Defendant argued plaintiff knew and understood the terms of the reformation that occurred and further argued that the actual cash value figures determined for the structure were appropriately derived and calculated accurately.

Last Demand: Plaintiff asked the jury for approximately $300,000 in compensatory damages, and a further $2 million to $3 million in punitive damages.
Verdict: Defense Verdict; the jury found in favor of defendant carrier and against plaintiff rejecting the common law fraud claims brought against the defendant.