Success Stories

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Kirsten Curtis and Alexander Hill recently prevailed on a motion for summary judgment on behalf of their Insurance Agency and Insurance Agent clients in Whatcom County, Washington.

When an insured couple suffered a smoke loss at their home, their carrier chose to non-renew their policy. Their agent offered to help seek another policy, as she was a captive agent who could not find them coverage with another carrier. The agent found another agency, who bound a policy for the insured couple without ever speaking to them. The limits of the new policy were lower than the non-renewed policy, and the insured couple contacted their new agency to ask about increasing limits on their new policy. When asked how much they wanted to increase their limits, the insured couple advised they did not know, and would call back. Three years later, and several renewals later, the insured couple suffered a total loss to their home, having never increased their limits. When their limits were insufficient to fully cover the loss, they sued the original agent and her agency for not getting them coverage that was “the same or better” as their old policy. The Complaint alleged negligence, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, CPA violations, and breach of fiduciary duty.

Whatcom County Judge Montoya-Lewis granted summary judgment for the agent and the agency, finding the agent had no duty the insured couple following their termination of the original policy, and no contract for the agent to have breached.

Fraudulent Injuries

In 2009, Plaintiff alleged he was injured when a medical transport company’s driver negligently moved the vehicle as Plaintiff was exiting. Although Plaintiff alleged to have an independent witness that corroborated Plaintiff’s story, the driver for the medical transport company maintained he did not move the vehicle while Plaintiff was exiting. The Insurer conducted its own investigation, which revealed inconsistencies in the version of events told by Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s “independent” witness, as well as long criminal histories for both. The Insurer also found another witness that corroborated the driver’s testimony that the accident never occurred. Suspecting fraud, the Insurer retained Dan Thenell to investigate Plaintiff’s claim.

After an in-depth and thorough investigation of the circumstances that allegedly caused Plaintiff’s injuries, public records searches and reviewing both Plaintiff’s and his witness’s history of crime and fraud, Dan discovered that Plaintiff had been found guilty in several criminal activities, including a similar workers’ compensation fraud claim. Dan also discovered that both Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s “independent” witness were registered sex offenders and had lived at the same residence for 2 months.

Plaintiff moved to voluntarily dismiss his suit and Dan sought attorney fees and enhanced prevailing party fees. The court found the evidence—especially the concealed shared residence of Plaintiff and his witness— demonstrated the claim was brought in bad faith and that the Plaintiff knew the claim was meritless. Consequently, the court granted costs and attorney fees, as well as enhanced prevailing party fees.

Body Shop Fraud

During a separate coverage investigation, Dan Thenell discovered that the insured’s boyfriend, who was insured by another company and was the owner of a body shop, had damaged his car intentionally to defraud his insurance company by collecting payments for the repair work.

Dan was retained by the boyfriend’s insurer to pursue a lawsuit against the boyfriend and the body shop for payments previously made by the insurer. The insured’s wife refused to cooperate with the investigation by avoiding process servers and failing to appear for two subpoenaed depositions. Ultimately, alternate means were employed to effectuate service for a third deposition, for which she finally appeared. She confirmed the intent to defraud.

At arbitration, Dan obtained a verdict finding the boyfriend and body shop committed insurance fraud. Ultimately, the arbitrator found in favor of Dan’s client and awarded damages and costs against the insured.