Defense Verdict / Jury Finds Plaintiff Intended to Deceive Insurers in Theft Case

Storage Unit

Attorney Sarah B. Christie successfully obtained a defense verdict in New Haven Superior Court following an 11-day jury trial arising from plaintiff’s first-party claims made against his insurers for failure to pay insurance proceeds following the alleged theft of personal and business property.

The plaintiff, a small antique and collectibles business, rented numerous trailers from a leasing company in Connecticut wherein it stored personal and business property. After the plaintiff went into arrears of more than $42,000 in back rent, the trailer company cut the locks from plaintiff’s storage trailers and eventually disposed of the contents of the trailers. There was also a contention that various items were stolen. In a prior action brought against the trainer rental company, the plaintiff alleged the trailer rental company’s actions constituted theft / conversion. The trailer rental company withdrew its collection action against the plaintiff for rental arrears and the plaintiff dropped the suit against the leasing company for theft / conversion. The plaintiff then filed two actions against its own insurers alleging breach of contract for failure to pay insurance proceeds in connection with the alleged theft and disposal of items. Because the leasing company had reportedly emptied the storage containers over an extended period of time and the plaintiff had switched insurance carriers over that period of time, the plaintiff brought claims against two insurers simultaneously in New Haven Superior Court. The matters were consolidated for purposes of trial.

Through the course of discovery, Attorney Christie and counsel for the second insurer uncovered inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s testimony surrounding the rental period, dates of loss, the circumstances of the loss and the items the plaintiff claimed were stored in the trailers. At trial, Attorney Christie highlighted these inconsistencies, undermining the plaintiff’s credibility.

While the jury found that the plaintiff had sustained a loss of business and personal property, it also found that the plaintiff had forfeited coverage under its policy by misrepresenting or concealing a material fact with the intention of deceiving its insurer(s), had engaged in dishonest or criminal activity causing the disappearance of the subject property and had prejudiced the insurer by failure to report the alleged theft in a timely manner. Following deliberations, the jury returned with a verdict in favor of the defendant insurers.

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