According to the Los Angeles Times, a California jury recently awarded over $8 million to an elderly homeowner whose home was nearly destroyed after a dump truck crashed into the home, rupturing a gas line, and causing an explosion. Residence Mutual Insurance Co. had insured Robert Christopher’s home for more than fifty years. According to Christopher’s attorney, Mark Geragos, “The insurance company did everything possible to try and torpedo this World War II veteran’s case.”
Christopher and his partner, Patricia Freiling, were inside their home in January of 2008 when a dump truck attempted to make a sharp turn, toppled over, and slammed into their home. The truck impacted a gas line, which caused an explosion. Christopher and Freiling were able to escape the inferno with relatively minor injuries. Christopher then sought to rebuild his home by seeking payment from the dump truck company and his own homeowner’s insurance policy. According to Geragos, Residence Mutual Insurance Co. did not tender its policy limits of $220,000.00; but rather, held back the money, charged Christopher for work done by an engineering firm, and charged Christopher $20,000.00 for another company to pack up the home’s contents for storage. Christopher’s attorneys also successfully argued at trial that Residence Mutual Insurance Co. wrongfully interfered with Christopher’s lawsuit against the dump truck company.
After just one day of deliberation, the jury awarded Christopher $8,062,850.00 in economic, noneconomic, and punitive damages. In Texas, such conduct by an insurance company would constitute breach of contract, a violation of the common law duty of good faith and fair dealing, and multiple violations of the Texas Insurance Code. It is good to see that it is not only Texas that provides protection and substantial remedies to policyholders for such violations.