Chartwell Law Partners Hema Patel Mehta and Brian Searls recently obtained a jury defense verdict in federal court in a lengthy, document-intensive trial involving claims of breach of contract, bad faith and violation of the consumer protection laws arising out of a denial of a fire loss claim. The carrier investigated the loss and found numerous instances of fraud, misrepresentation and concealment, as well as a finding of arson by a fire investigator. As a result, the carrier supported its denial based on misrepresentations and concealment in the policy application, misrepresentations and concealment during the post-loss investigation, failure to cooperate and the arson defense. Additional evidence was uncovered during discovery and trial, including plaintiffs copying from a content list from an earlier fire and lying about it, a last-ditch effort to submit fraudulent receipts and an attempt to sell the property three months after the fire all while the carrier was still conducting its investigation into the loss.
After the plaintiffs’ claim for bad faith and violation of the consumer protection law were dismissed and a nominal offer of judgment was rejected, the case proceeded to trial before an impaneled jury of eight. After hearing testimony from claims and underwriting representatives, the fire marshal and two fire investigators, the jury unanimously returned a verdict in favor of the carrier. They deliberated for less than one hour. Under the backdrop of this civil litigation, the carrier was required to assist and provide evidence and findings to local prosecutors for their insurance fraud investigation. As a result of the carrier and counsel’s efforts, one of the plaintiffs has been charged with insurance fraud. As proclaimed by the large loss adjuster, Hema and Brian
“far exceeded my expectations especially in binding all the various pieces of evidence and exhibits together,” and their “detailed investigation and presentation of evidence left no avenue for the plaintiff to defend himself.”