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COA allows insurance dispute to proceed

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found disputes of material fact in an insurance case in which the homeowners made misrepresentations in their application, ordering the trial court to take a closer look at whether the insurer rescinded the policy after discovering the misrepresentations.

In Michael Dodd and Katherine Dodd v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co., No. 12A02-1010-CT-1414, homeowners Michael and Katherine Dodd admit that they made material misrepresentations on their application for homeowner’s insurance with American Family Mutual Insurance Co. when only Michael applied for the insurance and left Katherine off of the policy. A previous fire had destroyed the home owned by Katherine that she and Michael lived in before they were married, resulting in that insurer declining to renew the policy after reimbursement. After they rebuilt, Michael was the only one listed on the application with American Family.

Michael and Katherine married in 2000, a couple years after the original fire. Three years later, the Dodds’ garage and its contents were destroyed by a fire. While investigating the Dodds’ claim, American Family learned about the fire that had destroyed the Dodds’ previous home. The insurer denied their claim, said they would not renew the policy, and did not return the Dodds’ premiums until after final judgment was entered in January 2011 in American Family’s favor on the Dodds’ suit for breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The Court of Appeals found Michael’s misrepresentations made the insurance policy voidable at American Family’s option, but not void from the outset, in part based on how the policy is written. The Dodds argued that American Family failed to effectively exercise its option to void the policy because it didn’t return the Dodds’ premiums until after entry of final judgment.

The record doesn’t reveal whether American Family ever offered to return the premiums directly to the Dodds, so there are disputes of material fact as to whether the insurer effectively rescinded the policy after discovering the material misrepresentations and, if not, whether American Family breached the policy by denying the Dodds’ claim.

The judges upheld summary judgment on the issue of the Dodds’ claims for punitive damages and intentional infliction of emotional distress because the Dodds abandoned them during trial court proceedings.

The case was remanded for further proceedings.
 

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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