Colorado Supreme Court Decision Could Tarnish Appraisal Process for Policyholders

Businessman holding justice scales

Colorado’s holding should put both insurers and policyholders on notice to review the language of appraisal provisions commonly found in first party policies.

September 16, 2019
Michael V. Pepe - Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C.

On June 24, 2019, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the plain language of appraisal provisions in insurance policies, requiring “impartial appraisers,” direct appraisers to be “unbiased, disinterested, and unswayed by personal interest,” regardless of who hires them, and prohibits the party-appointed appraisers from acting as advocates.

A common and attractive alternative dispute resolution option, the appraisal process usually entails the policyholder and insurer each hiring their own appraiser, who estimates how much the claim is worth. These appraisers also select a third-party umpire, and if they cannot agree upon one, a court appoints one. The umpire analyzes the conflicting estimates and presents a number to resolve the dispute. If two of the three parties agree with the outcome, the number becomes binding.

Owners Ins. Co. v. Dakota Station II Condo. Ass'n, Inc.1 began when Dakota Station II Condominium Association Inc. (“Dakota”) and its insurer, Owners Insurance Company (“Owners”) could not agree on how to value two claims arising out of weather damage. To settle the differences and come to a resolution, Dakota invoked the appraisal provision in the insurance policy instructing each party to select its own “competent and impartial appraiser.” Ultimately, a court-appointed umpire considered six cost categories in dispute and adopted four of Owners’ estimates and two of Dakota’s.

Mr. Pepe may be contacted at mvp@sdvlaw.com



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