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7th Circuit affirms District Court in attorney house fire case

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a grant of summary judgment in favor of an insurer because an attorney and his wife failed to produce documents the company requested repeatedly.

In Harry Foster III and Linda Foster v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, No. 11-3100, Harry and Linda Foster, their two children, Harry’s father and the family’s eight dogs were away when a fire severely damaged the family’s home on Jan. 3, 2009. Linda Foster submitted a claim to State Farm the next day under the family’s homeowners’ policy.

The insurer learned that the Fosters had at least two businesses, held numerous business and personal accounts, and were involved in multiple lawsuits. State Farm promptly requested documents including blueprints, utility bills and receipts. The insurer sent a letter to the Fosters at the end of January, reminding them of their obligation to submit requested documents, and did so again in March.

By mid-March, State Farm’s fire investigator concluded the fire was set intentionally and referred the claim to its Special Investigative Unit.

The Fosters’ deadline to submit proof of loss was May 2, 2009, but they requested a 60-day extension, which State Farm granted. A few days later, the Fosters asked for more time and State Farm again extended the deadline. On Aug. 5, the couple submitted nearly 1,000 pages of documents.   

On Aug. 13 and 15, Harry Foster sat for his examination under oath; Linda Foster’s EUO was on Aug. 26. Based on statements the couple made about previously undisclosed bank accounts and business dealings, State Farm requested additional documents, dating back to 2002.

Citing Morris v. Economy Fire & Cas. Co., 848 N.E.2d 663 (Ind. 2006), the 7th Circuit wrote that the Fosters’ duty was not only to give State Farm documents they possessed, but to acquire and deliver other documents related to their financial condition.

“As a matter of law, the Fosters’ failure to produce requested documents or even explain why they could not, and their related failure to complete Mrs. Foster’s EUO, materially breached the contract,” Judge John Tinder wrote on behalf of the circuit court.
 

 

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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