Judgment for Insurer in Breach of Contract Action

Partner Susan Miller and Associate Dennis Carnelli obtain Judgment for Insurer in Breach of Contract Action

On August 17, 2017, the Honorable Robert B. Shapiro ruled in favor of the Insurer (Defendant) after a bench trial. The Plaintiff  claimed that the insurance company had breached its contractual duty to its insured by failing to pay damages which had arisen as a result of the theft of his 2008 GMC Yukon.

The Plaintiff alleged that his vehicle was stolen from his place of business on September 12, 2011 when a person, or persons unknown, entered his pizza restaurant and took the keys to the vehicle off the counter where he had left them. The vehicle was then alleged to have been recovered several days later damaged.  Although a report was made to the police by the insured or someone speaking on his behalf, no actual investigation was undertaken by the police.

After the loss was reported to the insurance company, they immediately proceeded to conduct their own investigation. On April 3, 2012, the claim was denied and the insurer concluded  that the Plaintiff and or individuals acting on his behalf had falsely represented and deliberately concealed material facts, that the Plaintiff had made false statements under oath and breached the duty to cooperate. Furthermore, the Plaintiff had not demonstrated that an actual theft had taken place.

The original complaint alleged, in addition to a breach of contract count, a count alleging a breach of the Connecticut Unfair Insurance Practices Act (CUIPA) based on the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUPTA). Prior to trial, the court, upon motion, struck the CUIPA/CUTPA count and the case proceeded on the breach of contract count only.

In the Defendant’s answer to the Plaintiff’s complaint, it was acknowledged that a denial had been issued and cited as special defenses, the provisions of the policy upon which the denial had been issued.

Live  witnesses at trial included the Plaintiff and his brother who assisted in the operation of the pizza restaurant.  In addition to the live testimony, the court had transcripts from the examination under oath conducted by the Defendant, recorded statements and other written documents.

The court found that the testimony of the two witnesses was not credible because of contradictions between prior statements and live testimony at trial and could not be “explained away”.

Given those findings, the court found that the Plaintiff had not proven the 2008 Yukon was stolen and further he had not proven the Defendant breached the policy by denying the Plaintiff’s claim.  Judgement entered for the Insurance Company.