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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made misrepresentations in their application, ordering the trial court to take a closer look at whether the insurer rescinded the policy after discovering the misrepresentations.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return the premiums directly to the Dodds, so there are disputes of material fact as to whether the insurer effectively rescinded the policy after discovering the material misrepresentations and, if not, whether American Family breached the policy by denying the Dodds’ claim.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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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