What could be thought of as a freak accident has led to an $8 million dollar award to a homeowner. This represents a slap in the face for insurance companies that have traditionally denied legitimate claims or responded with lowball offers. Insurance companies hoping to reduce claims paid out would do well to pay attention - what was originally a $220,000 claim became much more costly.
In this particular instance, the Residence Mutual Insurance Company denied Robert Christopher's claim after a dump truck crashed into his dwelling, rupturing a gas line and causing an explosion and fire. However, the elderly Hollywood Hills resident was forced to fight Residence Mutual after it denied his $220,000 claim.
His persistence paid off, when a jury found that Residence Mutual acted with malice and fraud when failing to pay Mr. Christopher. The jury pointed to the fact that the victim was a senior citizen, and under California law he was considered to be more vulnerable - Robert Christopher was 86 at the time of the accident in 2008.
Christopher, a WWII veteran and longtime character actor, was slightly injured. His partner was also injured. The injuries were sustained when a dump truck failed to negotiate a turn and crashed into the house, dumping its load of dirt and trapping the elderly couple inside the house for more than 20 minutes.
The jury deliberated for a day after a week-long trial, awarding Christopher slightly more than $* million in economic, noneconomic and punitive damages.
On Friday, after a day of deliberation and a week of trial arguments, the jury awarded Christopher a combined $8,062,850 in economic, noneconomic and punitive damages. The insurance company would not comment.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Jury awards $8 million to homeowner in insurance company dispute," Mar. 19, 2012.