A Missouri Court of Appeals recently held that an appraiser may advocate for the party that appointed the appraiser as long as the appraiser has no financial interest in the outcome of the appraisal.
In Allstate Indemnity Company v. Gaworski,1 Allstate petitioned the trial court to disqualify the insureds’ selected appraiser, contending that the appraiser was not “disinterested” because the appraiser:
- Had an ongoing relationship with the company hired by the insureds to make the subject repairs and to which the insureds had assigned their contractual interest in their claims against Allstate, and
- acted unprofessionally and aggressively in his communications directed to Allstate.
In denying Allstate’s petition to disqualify the insureds’ appraiser, the trial court reasoned:
[A]lthough there was evidence of [the appraiser’s] ‘unprofessional conduct, aggressive rhetoric, and ominous emails,’ there was insufficient evidence of a disqualifying financial interest on his part.2
On appeal, the court agreed with the trial court, but expanded upon its reasoning, stating:
Although there is evidence in the record that [the insureds’ assignee] hired [the appraiser] for previous jobs, this does not constitute sufficient evidence of frequent or habitual employment rising to the level of a disqualifying bias.3
The appellate court also found:
An appraiser is not required to be entirely impartial. Instead, they may act as advocates for their respective parties without violating their commitments. Here, while [the appraiser’s] communications are certainly ‘aggressive,’ as noted by the trial court, they do not evidence a disqualifying bias against Allstate. Instead, [the appraiser’s] emails evidence his advocacy on behalf of the [insureds]….
These rulings help clarify the line between acceptable advocacy by an appraiser and improper bias or prejudice.
1 Allstate Indem. Co. v. Gaworski, No. ED106079, 2018 WL 3028851 (June 19, 2018).
2 Id. at *1.
3 Id. at *2 (citations omitted).