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Fire victim cannot collect emotional damages from her insurer; case evaluation sanctions are awarded

Nadia Sleman and her insurer, Nationwide, sued Bissell Homecare after a fire damaged the Sleman home.  They argued the fire was caused by a Bissell carpet cleaner.  Sleman was ultimately awarded a verdict of $40,000.00 and Nationwide was awarded $150,000.00 by case evaluators, and Bissell conditionally accepted this award "if both plaintiff accepted."  Nationwide rejected the award, and at trial the jury agreed with the evaluators, pretty much, and awarded Sleman $31,000 and Nationwide $130,000.00.

The trial judge rejected Bissell's claim for case evaluation sanctions because the verdict, plus interest, was ten percent better than the evaluators had predicted.  Bissell appealed this outcome and also appealed the award to Sleman, to the extent it included damages for emotional distress suffered as a result of propety damage.  The Court of Appeals noted that in 2013, the Republican majority of Michigan's Supreme Court rejected a claim similar to Sleman's and limited recoverable damages to "economic" injury.  On that basis, Sleman's verdict was reduced to her deductible of $1,000.00.

On the other hand, the higher court ruled that the trial judge erred by failing to grant case evaluation sanctions to Bissell against Nationwide:  it clearly did not achieve the ten percent improvement over the $130,000.00 case evaluation that would have allowed it to avoid sanction against an "accepting" adversary.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262