Nationwide Insurance Company claims managers may need to add botany and common-sense training to their claims education program. A Nationwide claims specialist sent photos of hibiscus plants to police indicating that Nationwide policyholders with a fallen tree loss were growing marijuana. The Nationwide policyholders look straight out of central casting as the “perfect aging couple” with grey hair and looking anything other than hippy dippy pot growers.

The Associated Press reported:

A couple who say they were handcuffed for hours in a police patrol car after their hibiscus plants were confused for marijuana are suing the police and an insurance company.

Edward and Audrey Cramer say in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that a Nationwide Insurance [Company adjuster] investigating a fallen tree at their Buffalo Township home sent photos of their flowering plant to police.

The lawsuit alleges that Buffalo Township police officers with assault rifles went to their home on Oct. 7 to investigate.

Audrey Cramer, 66, said she was partially dressed when she went to the door and police would not let her put on pants before she was handcuffed. “I was not treated as though I was a human being,” she said. “I was just something they were going to push aside.”

Edward Cramer, 69, said he returned home a half-hour later to find his wife in the back of a police cruiser and officers pointing guns at him. He also was placed in the cruiser despite trying to convince the officers the plants were hibiscus, not marijuana.

The Cramers were not charged. But they did file a lawsuit against Nationwide Mutual Insurance and its adjuster, Jonathan Yeamans, and added Buffalo Township and three of its police officers.

Among the allegations are use of excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy.

The controversy started when a neighbor’s tree fell on the Cramer’s property in September. Yeamans came to the property on October 5, to investigate the insurance claim. The lawsuit claims that Yeamans surreptitiously shot photos of the flowering hibiscus growing in the Cramers’ backyard and sent them to police as evidence of a marijuana grow operation. According to the complaint, Yeamans “intentionally photographed the flowering hibiscus plants in such a manner as not to reveal that they had flowers on them so that they would appear to resemble marijuana plants.”

Based on those photos, the suit claims, Buffalo Township police officer Jeffrey Sneddon obtained a search warrant for the Cramers’ property. The suit says that Sneddon claimed to have expertise in identifying marijuana. The police apparently arrived at the Cramers’ home around noon while Audrey Cramer was on the second floor only partially dressed. When she answered the door, she alleges that about a dozen officers were pointing assault-style rifles at her. According to the complaint, police demanded that Cramer put her hands up and told her that he had a search warrant but would not show it to her.

To make matters even worse, about three weeks after the wrongful arrest, Nationwide Insurance sent a letter to the Cramers claiming to have found marijuana growth on the property. The letter stated that if they failed to remove the marijuana plants, Nationwide would cancel their insurance policy.

The adjuster was a Nationwide Claims II specialist. Frighteningly, his resume indicates that he also has been training other Nationwide Insurance personnel.

Positive Thought For The Day

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
—Henri Matisse