Here is an interesting question; can a policyholder assign their bad faith claim to someone else? I will discuss several states’ laws on this issue in upcoming posts. Recently the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said yes they can.1
Usually policyholders are left with the option of suing their insurance carriers for breach of contract and bad faith, however a recent ruling in Pennsylvania opens up the door for policyholders to sue for negligence as well. The case is Bruno v. Erie Ins. Co., No 25 WAP 2013 (Pa. Dec. 15, 2014).
In a recent Memorandum Order out of the Western District of Pennsylvania, Selmek v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company,1 a State Farm adjuster requested that the insured assist her in inspecting a damaged roof and securing it from further damage. Carl and Amy Selmeks’ home and detached garage (located 100 yards away from the house) in rural Pennsylvania were insured under a dwelling and liability policy issued by State Farm. Mr. Selmak suffered injuries when he fell through the roof of his garage. Prior to this, a windstorm had damaged the roof of the garage, causing certain shingles to be blown off. The Selmeks reported the loss to State Farm. State Farm sent an adjuster to inspect the property. The adjuster did not bring sufficient equipment with her to go onto the garage’s roof. Mr. Selmek offered the adjuster his own ladder and also assisted her in taking measurements of the roof.
Immediate knowledge of a loss is never guaranteed. For example, many northeastern residents winter down south and they may go months without visiting one of their properties. What happens if during one of those periods their property is damaged and they don’t find out until months later?
Earlier this week, I was in Austin, Texas, attending a deposition with Chip Merlin on a hail damage claim. Texas is known for their barbeque so we decided to try out The County Line BBQ on Lake Austin. If you are in Austin, I highly recommend it.
This led me to today’s blog topic – a property insurance case involving damage to a barbeque restaurant.
We frequently field requests from public adjusters and clients concerning appraisal and scope of damages. The situation arises when appraisal is demanded by the insured and the carrier objects, arguing that appraisal is only for issues of price and cannot be invoked unless there is an agreed upon scope of damage. This notion was soundly rejected last month by a federal court in Pennsylvania.1 The court held that the insurer could not refuse appraisal where the dispute was over the extent of damage and stated that it was being “disingenuous” in arguing that the extent of damage was a coverage issue.
Pennsylvania experienced an intense hail storm at the end of May. The storm damage from one day in 2014 was worse than the average year of hail damage for the Keystone State. Merlin Law Group knows that insurance companies should promptly and properly respond to hail claims, but all too often we see these claims improperly adjusted. Hail damage is a peril that can cause damage blatantly obvious (every car in the parking lot was honored with a smashed windshield) or, the damage can be more discreet but still extremely harmful to property, especially with hail damage to roofs.
As my colleague, Denise Sze, pointed out in her recent blog post, “When Does a ‘Date of Loss’ Actually Manifest in California,” for both the policyholders and the attorneys representing them, the statute of limitations of a claim is extremely important. In Pennsylvania, Title 42 Pa.C.S.A. §5225, sets the limitations on time for bringing suit on various types of claims. For our purposes today, we’ll be looking at breach of contract and bad faith.