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Justices rule in favor of insurer in dispute over canceled policy

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The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment for American Family Insurance in a lawsuit filed by a couple after the insurer denied coverage for a 2003 fire at their home and voided the insurance policy from its beginning.

In Michael Dodd and Katherine Dodd v. American Family Mutual Insurance Company, 12S02-1203-CT-170, Michael and Katherine Dodd filed a claim with American Family after their garage was destroyed by a fire in 2003. Michael Dodd did not disclose in his application with American Family in 1998 that his then-fiancée Katherine’s home, where he lived, was destroyed in a fire earlier that year. Michael and Katherine Dodd didn’t marry until 2000, but they lived together when he applied for the policy.

In investigating the 2003 fire, Michael Dodd told American Family about the 1998 fire. The company treated it as a misrepresentation, voided the insurance policy ab initio and denied the Dodds' claim for the 2003 fire.

The couple sued for breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court ruled in favor of American Family. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed in part and ordered more proceedings on the breach of contract claim.

The justices upheld the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to American Family, rejecting the Dodds’ argument that American Family couldn’t void or rescind the policy because it hadn’t first returned all paid premium amounts to them. They didn’t make that argument in response to the insurer’s motion for summary judgment and the issue wasn’t before the trial court, Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote.

But even if the Dodds had made the argument before the lower court, an exception to this requirement has been met where an insurer doesn’t have to tender a return of premiums to rescind a contract when the insurer has paid a claim which is greater in amount than the premiums paid.

The Dodds received $5,500 from American family for hail damage, more than twice the amount of the premiums they paid.

The justices ordered the trial court to release and return the tender of premiums to American Family, which the trial court was holding until the conclusion of the Dodds’ appeal.

 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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