Defamation, breach of contract suit against Country Mutual settles for $455,000

Amelia Flood Sep. 9, 2010, 10:00am


A defamation and breach of contract case that netted a Granite City man $190,000 after a May trial this year has ended, with the insurer paying out $455,000 to settle the case.

According to a press release issued by plaintiff's attorney Anthony Bruning Thursday, defendant County Mutual Insurance Company and its Edwardsville agent, Matt Crider, agreed to settle plaintiff Brent Davis's case.

The settlement comes after the insurance company lost out on a move to overturn the $190,000 verdict last month.

Davis also had pleas for pre-judgment interest, attorney's fees and costs pending at the time of the settlement.

Those pleas totaled $60,000 in penalties, $76,543 in fees, $72,512.82 in court costs.

Davis sued the company after it failed to honor his homeowner's policy following a September 2005 fire that destroyed his Granite City home.

Country Mutual claimed that Davis intentionally set the fire and refused to honor a $139,000 claim.

The company also sent a letter indicating Brent Davis was responsible for the fire to his ex-wife, Charlotte Davis, although she was not on the homeowner's policy and had not made a claim.

Brent Davis was never charged with setting the fire.

The jury in the trial earlier this year awarded Davis $125,000 minus the $124,000 deductible on the breach of contract claim.

It granted him $190,000 for the defamation claim that related to the letter send to Charlotte Davis.

The settlement combines $425,000 Country Mutual will pay to Brent Davis and $30,000 Crider will pay.

Crider had been named in the suit but was dropped from it by the time of trial.

"I thought they [Country Mutual] would take care of me, but they made me feel like a criminal," Brent Davis said in the press release. "The jury's verdict proved what I said all along; that I didn't have anything to do with this fire."

Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth presides.

No date has been set as yet for the settlement's approval.

Douglas Richards and James Carlson represent Country Mutual.

The case is Madison 06-L-451.

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