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State Farm must pay contractor $14.5M for defamation

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a $14.5 million award of damages against State Farm Insurance after finding the insurer couldn’t prove its three arguments on appeal to reverse. The award is one of the largest defamation awards in U.S. history, according to the court.

Joseph Radcliff and his company Coastal Property Management LLC filed a counterclaim, alleging defamation against the insurer after State Farm sued Radcliff and his company for racketeering and insurance fraud. The suits were initiated after State Farm received bad press for denying homeowners’ claims for hail damage following a spring storm in central Indiana in 2006. Radcliff helped homeowners fight State Farm for coverage.

A jury awarded him the $14.5 million after a six-week trial in Hamilton County in 2011.

In State Farm Fire & Casualty Company v. Joseph Martin Radcliff and Coastal Property Management LLC, a/k/a CPM Construction of Indiana, 29A04-1111-CT-571, State Farm claimed that its communications with the National Insurance Crime Bureau and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department – which investigated claims made by State Farm against Radcliff that he created damage on customers’ roofs – were protected by statutory immunity and a common-law privilege for crime reporting; that Radcliff failed to prove actual malice by clear and convincing evidence; and that the damages award was excessive.
 

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