When you read about the small Village of Indian Hill, Ohio, you can’t help but think of it as a safe rural town in an out of the way location with rolling hills- something like a place out of a storybook. The community gathers together and celebrates holidays and news in the town revolves around the Saturday fishing tournament or the new horse trail.
Drive just a few minutes away from this rural area and you quickly reach Cincinnati, Ohio. The majority of time I have spent in Cincinnati has been stuck in slow moving traffic on 1-75 or changing flights at the airport. So, to those unfamiliar, Cincinnati might have also been perceived as a sleepy Midwestern city, but this location has always been one for industry, and there has been significant expansion with a good number of big-city amenities available, including museums, professional sports teams, and a wide selection of restaurants. Compared to the rest of Ohio, Cincinnati seems to be a strong location for business and growth.
For worker-bees that want a more relaxed retreat, it makes sense to work in Cincinnati but live in the picturesque area of Indian Hill. the Village of Indian Hill was the exact location where Jeffery and Maria Decker built their nearly 15,000 square foot dream house in 2006. The events that would unfold in 2014 and 2016, instead of a dream come true, were more of a nightmare.
On Friday, January 10, 2014, while Maria was in Florida, Jeff at work, and their boys attending school (one away at college and one at the country day high school), the home was destroyed by fire.
Chubb Insurance Company was the insurance carrier on the home, and while Chubb paid advance payments that were more than the value of many houses, some $700,000.00, this was residence was insured for millions. The Deckers claimed it would 10.7 million to rebuild the home and made a claim with Chubb for the structure loss and other coverages under the policy. The contract claim was for 15.3 million. After a year of claim adjustment, the Deckers filed suit against Chubb for the losses and sought additional damages with allegations of unfair and deceptive claims handling practices. In response, Chubb alleged that the Deckers made material misrepresentations in connection with the claim, argued that no additional funds were due. In fact, the carrier counter sued the Deckers for the $700,000 to be returned.
In this series of posts, we will look at what has been reported in the news and also the legal documents filed with the court in an effort to evaluate the facts and the arguments of the parties to understand the coverage arguments. We will also look at the testimony of one witness in this matter who gave a video-taped deposition but would not be available for the October 2017 trial. Mr. Stafford, the founder and owner of Stafford Jewelers, was found dead on November 8, 2016, reported by the media to be found on the Deckers’ property.
Insurance companies often argue allegations of misrepresentation, concealment, and fraud in matters that raise a red flag(s) during the investigation. This list of red flags is also not something they share with you during the initial claim meeting. Policyholders should understand that it is 100% improper to submit a claim for insurance proceeds that is false, laced with deception, or based on a lie. However, carriers have been known to raise arguments with a weak basis of an alleged omission and or alleged material misstatements because the fraud clause is available in most every policy, and such argument is a complete bar to insurance coverage, and starts a legal battle. The adjusters get to hand off to the lawyers.
Corporate giant insurance companies have invested time and money into evaluating the response from policyholders when they delay, deny and defend claims. Asserting misrepresentation allegations are proper when an insured has committed insurance fraud. But when this threat is used in matters that do not amount to fraud or concealment, insureds many give up, and abandon a valid claim.
It is the cases where the fraud is not supported, that a dedicated policyholder advocate lawyer can show the problems with the insurance company’s allegations and recover the damages.
Now that you know the setting, the parties, and the background facts, stay tuned for more details on the Deckers’ loss, including a deep dive into the arguments of coverage and information on the statements and testimony in this matter.