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ARTICLE ID 19657

$________ Insurance obligation - Denial of claim for water damage to Mercedes - contends fraud by plaintiff.

Ocean County

The plaintiff motel owner contended that his ________ Mercedes Benz ________-SL was essentially rendered worthless by flooding conditions during a "Nor’Easter." The plaintiff contended that an extensive amount of rain, snow and sleet entered the car while it was in the parking lot during the storm.

The defendant contended that the damage was caused by fraud and maintained that based upon evidence that some lower areas of the car were dryer than higher areas, it was clear that flood conditions did not cause the damage and that it was intentionally induced. The plaintiff countered that most of the damage was caused by sleet, rain and snow entering as individuals were going in and out of the car trying to start the car, which had stalled in the lot, accounting for some of the lower areas not being wet.

The plaintiff adamantly denied causing the damage.

The evidence disclosed that a lake adjacent to the parking lot had overflowed and the plaintiff contended that although some water probably entered in this manner, the car was not immersed and that this factor was not inconsistent with the absence of uniform areas of wetness.

The plaintiff maintained that the car was essentially "totaled" as a result of the flood. The plaintiff contended that value of the car at the time of the loss was $________, which should have been paid by the defendant, enabling him to pay off the balance of the lease and lease a new vehicle. The plaintiff contended that the warranty was voided and that rather than pay the buy-out himself when the claim was denied, he continued driving the car for the remainder of the three year lease term and extended it in order to minimize the buy-out amount. The plaintiff related that he made payments of $________. The plaintiff contended, however, that he experienced very frequent breakdowns and that the electrical system would intermittently fail. The plaintiff contended that because of the difficulties with the car, he essentially lost all economic benefit during this six year period.

The plaintiff argued that the defendant should perform under the contract and pay the $________ claim. The plaintiff also contended that in addition to this amount, the defendant should compensate him from the economic damages stemming from the bad faith denial of the claim and suggested that the lease payments were a measure of the value of the loss of use.

The defendant contended that the car was clearly not a total loss and further contended that it had a reasonable basis to deny the claim and did not act in bad faith.

The jury found for the plaintiff on the contractual claim under the policy and also found that the defendant had acted in bad faith in declining the claim. They then awarded $________ on the contractual claim and $________ for economic loss.

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