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Woman denied any fire loss recovery because she refused to provide SSN, was either one or six days late in filing Proof of Loss

Home-Owners Insurance Company sued Mary Griffith, seeking a ruling that it did not owe her fire loss benefits.  Griffith was insured by the company when she suffered a fire in her Inkster home.  After the fire, the insurer demanded that she provide her date of birth, Social Security number, all former names and "her financial information."  Griffith's Proof of Loss was due to the insurer on May 27, by the terms of the policy, however, she didn't mail it until that day; she hand-delivered another copy six days later.

Home Owners argued that it owed nothing to Griffith because she failed to cooperate in its investigation and failed to comply with the policy requirement that she file a proof of loss within 60 days.  She argued that the demanded information was irrelevant and that she substantially complied with the POL time limit. Although Michigan has historically recognized the "substantial performance of contract rule," the Court of Appeals held that her postal cancellation date did not prove that her package was mailed on that date, and that in any event the initial POL was not signed--signature was apparently six days late.  On that basis the Court held that Griffith was not in substantial compliance and could collect nothing on the policy.

Citing evidence that Griffith lived in a home that experienced a fire seven years earlier during a contentious divorce, the Court also held that "no reasonable juror could conclude" that her refusal to provide personal identification was anything other than an "intent to conceal material information from the insurer."  It reached this conclusion even though, apparently, she was not a claimant in the 2003 fire loss.  In a typical Henry Saad-Kathleen Jansen opinion, the appellate judges acted as jurors and interpreted the facts to allow summary disposition in favor of an insurer.

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