Jury Agrees With Insurer That Insured Misrepresented Robbery Loss

Sheila Reid v Economy Fire & Casualty Company 01L-15713

  • Verdict: Not Guilty
  • Judge: Brigid Mary McGrath (IL Cook-Law)
  • Pltf Atty: T. Lee Boyd, Jr. of Boyd Law Firm
  • Demand: $70,000
  • Asked: $85,000
  • Deft Atty: Mark B. Ruda of Condon & Cook
  • Offer: $10,000
  • Pltf Expert: David Lampert, Lester Lampert Inc., 57 E. Oak Street, Chicago, IL (312-944-6888) (Jeweler) and Kurt Teeters, Allied Gem Appraisers, 55 E. Washington Street Suite 404, Chicago, IL (312-263-0090) (Jeweler)

Plaintiff, the owner/manager of the House of Branch Funeral Home (Chicago), claims that in excess of $80,000 in personal property was stolen from her during an armed robbery. Allegedly, two men entered the funeral home, beat and bound Reid and an employee, then demanded "stuff" and "the package" before absconding with cash and various pieces of scheduled jewelry ($42,500 engagement ring; $12,800 tennis bracelet; $12,000 earrings; $6000 Rolex watch; $2000 wedding ring; $4500 platinum necklace). Roughly one week later, Reid recognized one of the robbers as he was entering a restaurant. She called police, the man was arrested, and he eventually pled guilty to one count of aggravated battery. Reid says she told her insurer about the robbery on March 15. However, Economy's records indicate that the incident was first reported on April 9--after her policy had been canceled for non-payment of premium as of March 1.

Economy (n/k/a MetLife Auto & Home) denied her claim, asserting that Reid was attempting to defraud the insurer. Economy argued that the robbers were looking for narcotics (based upon the "street'' meaning of "stuff'' and "the package") and that Plaintiff had concocted the story of the stolen jewelry to take advantage of the situation due to her distressed financial condition. Shortly after the alleged robbery, Plaintiff filed for bankruptcy and disclosed debts of nearly $500,000. Economy also contended that Plaintiff had denied making any prior claims, which was a material misrepresentation. In fact, in March 1997, Plaintiff had submitted a claim to Chubb Insurance arising out of a home invasion in which two armed men supposedly stole over $100,000 in scheduled jewelry. Finally, Economy pointed to inconsistencies in Plaintiff's statements—and a prior felony conviction for mail fraud—as indicative that her testimony was untrustworthy.

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