Contractual Impartiality Requires an Appraiser to be Unbiased, Disinterested, and Unswayed by Personal Interest

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Attorney Frank Ingham discusses Owners Ins. Co. v. Dakota Station II Condominium Assoc., Inc.

June 1, 2020
Frank Ingham - Colorado Construction Litigation Blog

On June 24, 2019, the Colorado Supreme Court held that when a contract or insurance policy requires an “impartial” appraisal, the appraiser for a party cannot be an advocate for that party.[1] In this situation, the appraiser must be unbiased, disinterested, without prejudice, and unswayed by personal interest. Id.

Owners Insurance Company (“Owners”) issued a policy to the Dakota Station II Condominium Association, Inc. (“Association”) that represents a 49-building multifamily residential property in Jefferson County, Colorado. Concerning loss conditions, the policy includes an appraisal provision requiring that, in the event of property appraisal, “each party will select a competent and impartial appraiser.” The parties would then select an umpire or have one appointed by the court. Any agreement as to the values reached by two of the three would bind them all.

On May 24, 2012, the Association made a storm-damage roofing claim to Owners for $1.33 million. The parties could not agree on the amount of the loss and the Association invoked the policy’s appraisal process. The Association retained Scott Benglen as its contingent-fee cap appraiser. Mr. Benglen retained Laura Haber as a policy and damage expert, who appraised the roof loss at $2.55 million and the total replacement at $4.3 million.[2] Owners’ appraiser, Mark Burns, submitted the loss at $1.86 million with the replacement cost award of $2.3 million. The umpire, Honorable James Miller, adopted Owners’ estimates in four of the six categories, awarding just over $3 million to the Association. Id.

Mr. Ingham may be contacted at ingham@hhmrlaw.com



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