REPRESENTATIVE VERDICTS

Jury Agrees With Insurer That Homeowner Misrepresented Facts Of House Fire

Gail Hogan, Johnny Hogan v Allstate Insurance Co. 03L-691

  • Verdict: Not Guilty
  • Judge: Brigid Mary McGrath (IL Cook-Law)
  • Pltf Atty: Gregory A. Bedell of McNish, Knabe for both pltfs
  • Deft Atty: Mark B. Ruda of Condon & Cook
  • Pltf Expert: Darren S. Knapp, Guardian Fire Adjusters, 5901 N. Cicero Ave., #510, Chicago, IL (773-205-1700) (Adjustor) for both pltfs
  • Deft Experts: Dennis Victor, Kunkel & Associates, 1440 Maple Avenue 4B, Lisle, IL (630-729-1000) (Real Estate Appraiser), Douglas Rayburn (Fire Cause/Origin) and Linda Kwak, Allstate Insurance Co. (in-house) (Adjustor)

November 20, 2001 fire damaged the home at 10145 S. Lowe (Chgo), which was insured by Allstate with a building/contents policy limit of $278,800. Homeowners Gail and Johnny Hogan had moved to Las Vegas (a better climate for Gail's medical conditions), and had not lived on the premises after April 2000. However, Gail's daughter Keena Hughes and Keena's husband Marcus allegedly had moved in and stayed there until the fire. Claims were submitted to Allstate by the Hogans ($164,000 building and $114,800 contents).

After determining that the blaze had been intentionally set, Allstate denied coverage on the basis that the Hogans were involved in setting the fire and/or made material misrepresentations regarding the fire, the contents damaged, and the occupancy of the property. Allstate noted that the building had been in foreclosure—before the mortgage was reinstated in April 2001—only to have the Hogans fail to make the October-December payments. At the same time, Plaintiffs had been unable to sell the house for its $59,900 listed price because its condition was deteriorating. The gas supply had been turned off, perhaps as early as August 2000 according to Marcus Hughes, who said he had never lived in the house (contradicting statements made by his wife), and neither Marcus nor Keena could produce any documentation that showed 10145 S. Lowe as their address. Finally, Allstate's adjustor concluded that the building's contents had a value of less than $27,000 after examining post-fire remnants.