June 26, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Participation in Contractual Appraisal Does Not Preclude Insured’s Suit for Breach of Contract and Statutory Bad Faith

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Andres Trucking Co. v. United Fire and Casualty Co. on Thursday, September 20, 2018.

InsuranceBreach of ContractStatutory Bad Faith DelayAppraisal.

Andres Trucking Co. (Andres) operated a dump truck that caught fire while it was insured by United Fire and Casualty Co. (United). The parties agreed that the truck was a total loss but disagreed about its value. Ultimately, Andres filed an amended complaint alleging breach of contract and bad faith denial and delay of an insurance claim under C.R.S. §§ 10-3-1115 and -1116 and challenging the enforceability of the contractual appraisal provision. The district court struck the amended complaint on the ground that the insurance policy required an appraisal. Following an appraisal, United paid Andres the truck’s appraised value and moved for entry of judgment under C.R.C.P. 12(b)(5), contending that as a matter of law the appraisal process had resolved Andres’s claims. While this motion was pending, Andres moved to amend its complaint. The district court again denied the motion, reasoning that the appraisal process concluded the issues before the court, and entered judgment for United.

On appeal, Andres argued that the district court erred in dismissing its complaint because the appraisal process did not resolve whether United had breached the insurance policy or unreasonably denied or delayed payment of benefits. The court concluded that the appraisal process did not determine United’s liability for breach of contract or statutory bad faith delay. The district court erred in determining that the appraisal precluded Andres from pursuing these claims.

Andres also raised various challenges to the appraisal process itself. The court rejected the arguments that (1) the appraisal provisions are unconstitutional; (2) United did not properly invoke the appraisal because it never demanded it; and (3) the appraisal process did not result in a binding loss valuation. The appraisal award is a binding determination of the value of the insured property, and thus Andres may not further litigate that issue. The district court did not err in enforcing the appraisal provision.

The court also determined that the district court did not err in awarding United attorney fees, but it denied United’s request for appellate attorney fees.

The order approving the appraisal value was affirmed but the judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for reinstatement of the complaint. The order awarding United costs as the prevailing party was vacated but the order awarding United attorney fees for its response to Andres’ motion for clerk’s entry of default was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.