09.24.2018

United States District Court for the Western District Washington Imputes Material Misrepresentations of “Public Adjuster” to Insured, Declares Policy Void

In Reverse Now VII, LLC v. Oregon Mutual Insurance Company, Case No. C16-209-MJP, 2018 WL 4510071 (W.D Wash. Sep. 18, 2018), the federal district court found that the insurance policy at issue was void as a matter of law due to material misrepresentation and concealment by the insured and its purported public adjuster.

The insurance claim underlying this litigation arose from a fire in an apartment unit in the building owned by the insured. The fire damaged the unit’s interior and approximately 2% of the building’s exterior cladding. The parties engaged in appraisal pursuant to the policy terms to determine the extent of the loss to the building’s exterior. The insured filed suit against Oregon Mutual before the appraisal was complete.

Through the course of litigation, Oregon Mutual learned that the insured’s purported public adjuster had applied for a public adjuster’s license, but failed to complete his application. Nonetheless, he held himself out as a public adjuster and performed the responsibilities of a public adjuster on behalf of the insured for more than two and a half years in violation of RCW 48.17.060.

Oregon Mutual also learned that the appraiser named by the insured was not impartial, but instead that the appraiser had been best friends with the purported public adjuster for decades and that the two were former business partners who had often worked on claims together.

On Oregon Mutual’s motion for summary judgment, the Court found that these misrepresentations were material as a matter of law. The Court rejected the insured’s argument that public adjuster licensing was an administrative issue that was irrelevant to the investigation of the insurance claim. The Court also found that the failure to disclose the long-term relationship between the purported public adjuster and the appraiser was material as a matter of law. The Court rejected the insureds’ argument that misrepresentations made by its agents could not be imputed to it.

On the basis of the insured’s material misrepresentations, the Court found the policy was void, and dismissed all claims, both contractual and extra contractual, against Oregon Mutual. Soha & Lang, P.S., represented Oregon Mutual in this matter.

Posted by Jennifer Dinning