Genuine Dispute Summary Judgment Reversed for Abuse of Discretion and Trial of Fact Questions About Expert Opinions

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In Fadeeff, the policyholders made a claim to State Farm for smoke damage to their home from the 2015 Valley Fire in Hidden Valley Lake, California.

July 27, 2020
Christopher Kendrick & Valerie A. Moore – Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP

In Fadeeff v. State Farm General Ins. Co. (No. A155691, filed 5/22/20 ord. pub. 6/8/20), a California appeals court held that triable issues of fact and the trial court’s failure to address a request for a continuance precluded summary judgment for an insurer under the genuine dispute doctrine.

In Fadeeff, the policyholders made a claim to State Farm for smoke damage to their home from the 2015 Valley Fire in Hidden Valley Lake, California. With State Farm’s approval, the insureds retained the restoration company, ServPro, to assist with smoke and soot mitigation. State Farm documented smoke and soot on the interior walls, ceilings and carpeting, and on all exterior elevations, including on the deck and handrail. State Farm made a series of payments on the claim totaling about $50,000.

The insureds then hired a public adjuster and submitted supplemental claims for further dwelling repairs and additional contents replacement, totaling approximately $75,000. State Farm responded by using its own independent adjuster to investigate, who was neither licensed as an adjuster, nor as a contractor. State Farm also retained forensic consultants for the structure and the HVAC system, but neither the independent adjuster nor the consultants were aware that State Farm had an internal operation guide for the use of third-party experts in handling first party claims, which guidelines were therefore not followed. In addition, the consultants made allegedly superficial inspections, with one attributing smoke and soot damage to other sources of combustion, including the insureds’ exterior propane barbecue, an internal wood fireplace and wood stove and candles that had been burned in the living room. None of the consultants asked the insureds when they had last used any of the sources of combustion.

Reprinted courtesy of Christopher Kendrick, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP and Valerie A. Moore, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP
Mr. Kendrick may be contacted at ckendrick@hbblaw.com
Ms. Moore may be contacted at vmoore@hbblaw.com



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