Insurer asks judge to overturn jury's verdict in defamation, breach of contract case
An insurance company faced with a $190,000 verdict has asked a Madison County judge to throw it out, alleging his rulings unfairly tilted the trial's playing field.
Defendant Country Mutual Insurance Company filed its post-trial motion June 9.
A hearing is set before Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth July 9 at 9 a.m.
Plaintiff Brent Davis sued Country Mutual alleging it refused to pay his claims after a fire destroyed his home, personal belongings and car in 2005. A jury ruled in his favor May 14.
Davis also claimed the insurer sent documents to his ex-wife who was not a policy holder at the time of the fire indicating that Davis intentionally set his home ablaze.
Country Mutual maintained during the May trial that the fire was intentionally set, likely by Davis and his then-girlfriend Lori Flowers.
The jury awarded Davis $190,000 for the defamation count of his suit.
It also awarded Davis about $125,000 for the breach of contract claims, although they reduced that amount by the $124,000 deductible.
In a June 8 motion, the defense cites a number of alleged errors by Ruth as the reasons for discarding the jury's findings on the defamation counts or reversing the entire verdict.
Country Mutual argues that Ruth should not have allowed Flowers to testify without allowing the defense to use the fact that Flowers allegedly lied about a past felony conviction during the fire investigation.
It alleges Ruth erred in not applying the so-called "Innocent Construction Rule" to statements written in a letter about the fire claim to Charlotte Davis, the plaintiff's ex-wife.
The defense also finds fault with a number of other rulings Ruth made related to other witnesses and the defamation count.
If Ruth grants the motion to reverse the verdict, the defense asks for a new trial on the breach of contract claims alone.
According to the case file, Davis has yet to respond to the defense motion.
The defendant is represented by Douglas Richard.
Davis is represented by Anthony Bruning.
The case is Madison case number 06-L-451.