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Court upholds judgment for insurer in fire loss action, where jury finds damages but also misrepresentation by insured

Randall Nick sued the Grange Insurance Company after a fire destroyed his home.  In response to a special verdict form, the jurors held that Nick made a misrepresentation about his claim, but that he did not commit arson or cause arson to be committed. It went on to itemize the damages he suffered, even though no damages were to be awarded in the event that Nick was guilty of fraud or misrepresentation.  The trial judge entered a judgment in favor of the insurer, awarding no damages.

Nick appealed the "no cause" judgment entered by the Court, arguing that it was inconsistent, given the jurors' damage verdict.  The Court of Appeals rejected his appeal, holding that there was a legally consistent basis for the jury to conclude that while not guilty of arson, Nick had in some fashion misrepresented his damage claim.  Since the jury's responses on the verdict form were capable of reconciliation, there was no basis to overturn the "verdict," which the Court deemed to be that Nick was guilty of misrepresenting the amount of his damages--making the dollar award mere "surplusage."  Nick's argument that the jury should have been sent back to reconcile the damage award and the finding of misrepresentaiton, consistent with the law and jury instructions, was rejected.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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