Court Affirms Bad Faith Verdict in Homeowner’s Insurance Case


In a new case from Division Three of the Fourth Appellate District, Chicago Title Insurance Company v. AMZ Insurance Services; Pacific Specialty Insurance Company, __ Cal. App. 4th __ (September 9, 2010), the California Court of Appeal has given policyholders a good holding on the issues of when a policy binder becomes effective, when an agent acts on behalf of an insurer and what actions constitute bad faith.

Thomas and Cheryl Mustains (“Mustains”) successfully refinanced their home mortgage with an escrow closing date of October 12, 2005. One of the conditions by the lender was a new homeowner’s insurance policy was to be received and the premium paid for in escrow by Chicago Title. The Mustains’ loan officer contacted AMZ Insurance Services Inc. (“AMZ”) and McGraw Insurance Services (“McGraw”) to obtain the homeowner insurance policy. AMZ selected Pacific Specialty Insurance Company (“PSIC”) as the insurer. AMZ prepared an Evidence of Property Insurance (“EOI”), a computer generated form naming PSIC as the Insurer and the Mustains as the insureds for homeowner’s insurance, which was sent to Chicago Title. Unfortunately, an application from the Mustains was never completed, and the premium was not paid by Chicago Title. On November 11, 2005, the Mustains’ home burned down. Chicago Title reimbursed the Mustains for their loss, and in turn obtained an assignment of rights from the Mustains.

Chicago Title sued both PSIC and McGraw, the parent company of PSIC, for breach of insurance contract, bad faith, and declaratory relief . In a special verdict, the jury found:

1) The EOI was not legally cancelled before the Mustain’s fire loss on 11/11/2005

2) AMZ had actual or ostensible authority to prepare and issue the EOI on behalf of PSIC and McGraw

3) PSIC and McGraw breached their obligation of good faith and fair dealing by failing to pay insurance proceeds to the Mustain’s under the EOI

4) PSIC and McGraw breached their obligation of good faith and fa

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