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$________ Insurance Obligation – Failure to pay insurance benefits – Breach of contract – Failure to act in good faith – Chapter 93A claim.

Middlesex County, MA

In this insurance obligation dispute, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant insurer breached the parties’ insurance contract when it failed to honor the plaintiff’s claim for loss after a fire destroyed her property. The defendant denied the allegations and maintained the plaintiff had made material misrepresentations on her application.

The female plaintiff purchased a three family house that she intended to use as her primary residence and rental property. The plaintiff obtained insurance coverage from the defendant insurer through an insurance broker. The application for the insurance was secured over the phone by the broker with the plaintiff, who is from Liberia. The broker issued a homeowner’s policy for the property despite the fact that the plaintiff was not yet living at the premises.

The plaintiff maintained that she did not sign the application filed by the broker, but did receive something in the mail from the broker. The plaintiff had not moved into the property due to a change in her employment when a fire occurred at the premises. The property sustained significant damage as a result of the fire and the plaintiff filed a claim with the defendant on her insurance policy. The defendant denied the claim because the plaintiff was not living at the property and the policy was a homeowner’s policy requiring the plaintiff to reside on the premises.

The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant alleging that the defendant breached the parties’ insurance contract and the defendant committed consumer fraud in violation of Chapter 93A and Chapter 176D by failing to act in good faith to resolve the plaintiff’s claim for property damage. The plaintiff maintained that the apparent error in the issuance of the policy was due to a communication breakdown due to a language barrier between the plaintiff and the insurance company’s broker.

The defendant denied the allegations and maintained that the policy as written did not require compensation to the plaintiff because she misrepresented the fact that she would be living at the premises. The plaintiff made an effort to have her mortgage company to make a claim against the insurance company also under Massachusetts law; however, the mortgage company declined to pursue such a claim and instead foreclosed on the plaintiff after securing and making the plaintiff pay for an "after the fact" insurance policy.

The parties originally mediated the plaintiff’s claim; however, due to the defendant’s refusal to engage in meaningful settlement negotiations, the mediation failed and the matter proceeded to trial. The trial was bifurcated on contract and consumer fraud issues.The jury awarded the plaintiff the sum of $________ after a directed verdict was entered in the plaintiff’s favor. The court found in favor of the plaintiff on her Chapter 93A and Chapter 176D claims, but the amount was not added to verdict amount as the court ruled it was duplicative. No special damages were awarded under the consumer statutes.

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