A jury has awarded a roofing contractor $14.5 million in his five year legal battle with State Farm Insurance following a 2006 hailstorm that caused severe damage in central Indiana. In October 2008, State Farm claimed the owner of CPM Construction committed fraud to obtain funds from State Farm by intentionally damaging roofs to simulate hail and wind damage. The owner of CPM Construction denied the claims and counter-sued State Farm for defamation. He further said that a former employee who made damaging comments to State Farm did so because he was terminated for non-performance.
Here was a hard-working contractor running a restoration business that helps citizens recover from the effects of a devastating storm. Next, he was swept up in State Farm\’s campaign to increase its own profits. Despite the ruling, State Farm destroyed this small business with its false claims. Although vindicated, the plaintiff said the allegations shut down his business and hurt his family; his once excellent reputation in the business is over.
State Farm went after the little guy hoping he would not fight back. It looks like they messed with the wrong guy. No matter how long State Farm denied, delayed defended, confused and refused, this small business owner refused to break down. His attorney, Will Riley, said “It was a tribute to the American jury system that one man can take on the largest insurance company in the nation and win.”
Sadly, this $14.5 million verdict won\’t teach State Farm a lesson. Why? State Farm has extremely deep pockets and its strategy is to make collection, even for its own, premium paying, policy holders, tremendously difficult, if not impossible, without jury or judicial resolution. Even then, the likes of State Farm will exhaust all appeals to avoid paying what it should. They happily take your money in premiums, in exchange for what they call “coverage”; when you need the benefits or coverage you paid for from your “Good Neighbor”, watch out! State Farm and its ilk will be vicious in defending its pocketbook. Since these deep pockets are much deeper than a small business owner, State Farm doesn’t care what it puts him/her through. If State Farm pursues litigation against legitimate contractors, and the majority of those contractors can\’t afford to fight back or caves in for compromised amounts, “Snake” Farm robs, yet another, innocent victim.
State Farm has until the end of this month to decide whether it will file an appeal. And that\’s not the only trouble State Farm is facing from that 2006 hail storm. More than 40,000 homeowners are trying to obtain class action status in a lawsuit against State Farm for its failure to pay damages from that same storm.
Think your rights aren\’t being affected by tort reform? The next time you file a claim against your own policy or pursue one against someone else, think of CPM, retain competent counsel, and stand up for your rights. The jury is the great equalizer.
Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.