Supreme Court of Kentucky Holds Plaintiff Can Recover for Stigma Damages in Addition to Repair Costs Resulting From Property Damage

Gavel resting on stand

Gus Sara of White and Williams LLP discusses the nuances of the Muncie v. Wiesemann case.

August 15, 2018
Gus Sara - The Subrogation Strategist

In Muncie v. Wiesemann, 2018 K.Y. LEXIS 257, the Supreme Court of Kentucky considered whether stigma damages[1] in a property casualty case are recoverable in addition to the costs incurred to remediate the actual damage. The court held that stigma damages are recoverable in addition to repair costs, but the total of the stigma damages and repair costs cannot exceed the diminution in the fair market value of the property. The court’s decision establishes that if the repair costs are insufficient to make the plaintiff whole, a recovery for stigma damages up to the amount of the diminution in the market value of the home is appropriate.

Appellants Cindy and Jim Muncie incurred significant property damage to their home as a result of an oil leak originating from a neighboring property owned by the Estate of Martha Magel. In 2011, Auto Owners Insurance Company (Auto Owners), the liability carrier for the Estate’s testatrix, Patricia Weisman, filed an impleader complaint in federal court to discharge its obligation to settle the third-party liability claims on behalf of Ms. Weisman. Auto Owners reached a settlement with the Muncies for $60,000 which represented the remediation costs for the actual damage to the property. The settlement release reserved the Muncies’ right to pursue a claim for stigma damages associated with the oil leak.

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