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Eighth Circuit Affirms Insurance Bad Faith Award Obtained by Christopher Yetka and Sarah Greening, Among the First in Minnesota Federal District Court

08/31/2021

On August 30, 2021, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a finding of bad faith against Selective Insurance Company of South Carolina.  Selective had accused a homeowner of fraud when he brought a claim for hail damage following a storm in 2015.  The unfounded accusation of fraud arose because the policyholder’s home had been hit by a storm in 2010, the policyholder was paid for the earlier damage, and made representations about what was and was not repaired after the earlier storm.  

The Court of Appeals made a number of important findings:  First, what was or was not repaired after the initial storm was less relevant because the new insurer inspected the home, identified the roof as being of average condition, and insured the home for full replacement value even though it had left-over damage from the earlier storm.  Second, the insurance company inappropriately relied on an expert report even though they failed to give the expert all of the relevant information, and ignored findings in the report they knew were factually wrong. Third, an insurer in Minnesota has an affirmative obligation to investigate claims, analyze all of the facts, and not simply rely on the facts that support a result they are trying to obtain. 

Christopher Yetka, the lead trial attorney, stated “this is an important decision in Minnesota because it makes clear that an insurer must conduct a thorough claim investigation and it cannot ignore facts and blindly rely on a favorable expert report.”

The matter was handled by Christopher Yetka and Sarah Greening of Larkin Hoffman's Insurance Recovery and Advice Practice Group.

Larkin Hoffman represents property-casualty insurance policyholders in insurance disputes—never insurance companies. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing policyholders and take time to learn about our clients’ policies. Knowing what a client had insured and why it matters to them is the natural starting point for our team. We dig deep to learn what the insurance company promised and what our clients relied on to protect themselves.  Even with the most thorough policy review, it is inevitable that insurance carriers will reject some covered claims leaving our clients with no choice but to fight it out in court. We have tried cases across the country in federal courts and in the courts of over thirty states. We advise our clients on alternatives to trial and make every effort to get matters resolved in a timely and effective manner. 

To read a full copy of the opinion issued by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, click here or download a copy by clicking on the "Download PDF" button in the upper right corner.