Ruth denies insurer's request for new trial on $190,000 defamation verdict
Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth has denied Country Mutual Insurance's motion for a new damages trial.
The insurance company faces a $190,000 judgment on defamation claims brought by a former policy holder following a May trial.
Country Mutual was sued over claims of defamation and breach of contract by Brent Davis four years ago.
Davis claimed the insurer refused to pay his claims after his home was destroyed by fire in 2005.
The plaintiff further contended that Country Mutual sent documents to his ex-wife, Charlotte Davis, that implied Davis intentionally set the blaze.
Charlotte Davis was not on the homeowner's policy at the time of the fire and the plaintiff maintained she should not have received the documents at all.
Country Mutual contended during the trial that it was not liable for the claims because Davis and his former girlfriend set the fire.
The jury awarded Davis $125,000 on the breach of contract claims but reduced that amount by the $124,000 deductible. It also found for Davis on the defamation counts, awarding $190,000.
In its post-trial motion, Country Mutual argued that Ruth made a number of errors in ruling against it on a motion for directed verdict on the defamation counts and that the judge made errors in allowing certain evidence about Charlotte Davis's receipt of the documents.
The defense also took issue with some of Ruth's handling of witnesses and his rulings on the scope of inquiry.
Ruth denied the post-trial motion on Aug. 11.
Ruth has also taken a move by the plaintiff for costs to be paid and a plea for pre-judgment interest under advisement.
The plaintiff seeks $60,000 as a penalty for Country Mutual's conduct, $72,512.82 in expenses and attorney's fees of $76,543.
Ruth has not entered orders on those issues to date.
Davis is represented by Anthony Bruning.
The insurance company is represented by Douglas Richard and James
The case is Madison case number 06-L-451.