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ARTICLE ID 3953

Alleged wrongful denial of fire loss claim - Breach of contract - Total loss to business structure - Claim for lost business income.

Hillsborough County

The plaintiff corporation, owners of a seafood restaurant in Tampa, brought this action against the defendant insurance company which issued the plaintiff’s property insurance as well as the defendant’s general agent. The plaintiff contended that p 7 3 the defendants wrongfully denied payment for a fire loss which destroyed its building. The defendants argued that the plaintiff made material misrepresentations in its application for the insurance and in presenting the claim after the fire, voiding coverage. The defendant named the agency which produced the policy as a third-party defendant.

The plaintiff sustained a fire loss on August 23, ________, resulting in a total loss to the business structure, built on pilings over Tampa Bay. The plaintiff made a claim to the defendant insurance company for loss of the structure, loss of business personal property, debris removal, lost business income and various other coverage in the insurance policy.

The defendant took the plaintiff’s examination under oath over the course of three days and the plaintiff submitted voluminous books and records. The defendant contended that its investigation revealed that there were material misrepresentations in the plaintiff’s application for the insurance policy. The plaintiff’s claim was denied on January 4, ________, on the basis of misrepresentation in the application. The defense also contended that the fire was intentionally set and reserved its right to assert this additional defense.

The plaintiff produced a document bearing the signature of an employee of the producing insurance agent (third-party defendant) and setting forth the true version of facts allegedly misrepresented on the application. The plaintiff introduced several witness who testified that they were present when the document in question was created and that the document was valid.

The plaintiff contended that any misrepresentations on the application were unintentional.

The producing agent’s ex-employee, whose signature appeared on the document introduced by the plaintiff, denied signing the document. The defendant’s CPA also opined that the plaintiff did not sustain a loss of business income as a result of the fire because the restaurant was in poor financial condition prior to the blaze.

The defendant agent received a directed verdict and the jury found for the defendant insurance company.

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