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Insurance company owes nothing to renter after fire: court holds he did not "substantially comply" with proof of loss

Jevon Johnson's apartment was gutted by fire in April of 2010.  He had renter's insurance with MemberSelect Insurance Company.  The insurer's contract required that Johnson file a proof of loss within sixty days; it also demanded that he appear for a sworn statement with "copies of police and fire reports, any photographs of the apartment, anhy lease agreements, various financial records, telephone records, any original documents relating to the purchase of destroyed personal property, a detailed contents estimate and all records supporting additional living expenses."

Johnson employed Blue Water Cleaning and Restoration to provide to MemberSelect an inventory of  "salvageable property" and he appeared empty-handed for the insurer's "examination under oath."  He later provided limited financial and legal documents.  When Johnson did not provide a signed Proof of Loss and the above-demanded documents to MemberSelect within the contractual 60 days, MemberSelect refused to pay for any of his lost property and Johnson sued.

The Court of Appeals held that Johnson was owed nothing under his insurance contract.  It held that he had not "substantially complied" with the proof of loss requirements that MemberSelect incorporated into its insurance contract, and therefore he was not entitled to any recovery.  It also held that MemberSelect had not waived this defense and was not estopped to raise it by MemberSelect's course of dealing with Johnson.  It "was under no obligation to remind Johnson of his duties under the contract...and there is no evidence that MemberSelect intentionally misled Johnson..."

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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