Insurance company adds to family's woes after extensive water damage; bad faith. $1.3 million. Los Angeles County.
Burglars said to leave the tub running and water severely damages the house.
- Case Name: Steven Lopez v. IDS Ameriprise
- Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC605264
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, March 23, 2017
- Date Action was Filed: Monday, December 28, 2015
- Type of Action: Insurance – Bad Faith, Claims Handling
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Mary Ann Murphy
- Plaintiffs: Steven Lopez, 39.
- Defendants: IDS Ameriprise
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $1,334,072.98 plus attorneys fees
- Economic Damages:
- Non-Economic Damages:
$200,000 and attorney’s fees
- Punitive Damages:
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 8 days.
- Jury Deliberation Time: 4 days.
- Attorney for the Plaintiff:
Kabateck Brown Kellner LLP by Brian Kabateck and Shant Karnikian, Los Angeles.
Evangeline Fisher Grossman Law by Evangeline Grossman, Claremont.
- Attorney for the Defendant:
Woolls Peer Dollinger & Scher by H. Douglas Galt, Los Angeles.
- Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):
Jan Brussel,construction, Costa Mesa.
Daina Dillabough, claims handling, Laguna Niguel.
- Defendant's Technical Expert(s):
Joanna Moore, claims handling.
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
Plaintiff Steven Lopez is a single father of five and homeowner who lives in Torrance. In September 2013, Mr. Lopez’s home was burglarized; in addition to thieves stealing a significant amount of personal property, they turned the water on in the upstairs bathroom, which caused flooding throughout the house.
Plaintiff had a homeowner’s insurance policy with defendant Ameriprise that covered the burglary and the water damage. After plaintiff made a claim on his insurance policy, Ameriprise acted in bad faith. Within a week of his claim, plaintiff’s insurance company started a fraud investigation in spite of a police report detailing the nature of the theft.
Lopez hired a special property insurance attorney, Evangeline Grossman, to force defendant to resolve the claim.
During the bad faith trial – and three years, six months and 11 days after the damage – Ameriprise paid more than $60,000, claiming they had just then realized the house sustained more damage than they originally estimated.
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
That Ameriprise only paid for minimal water damage, mold remediation, insufficient repairs and initially refused to pay for the family to live elsewhere while the claim was adjusted and repairs performed. After living away from the house for months, plaintiff had no choice but to patch his home back together and return to it. Plaintiff claimed that the insurer failed to fully investigate the claim and acted in bad faith.
- Defendant's Contentions:
Ameriprise claimed that they acted reasonably given the circumstances. They claimed that they paid everything they were obligated to pay under the policy and that they were unaware of further damage to the property until plaintiff’s expert testified about it at trial.
Injuries and Other Damages
Emotional distress, unpaid living expenses, and $187,000 in remaining work to restore plaintiff’s home to pre-loss condition.
Demands and Offers
- Defendant §998 Offer: $50,000