Jury rules for plaintiff in Granite City unpaid fire claim trial

By Amelia Flood | May 17, 2010


A Madison County jury found for the plaintiff in an unpaid fire insurance claim after a long week of testimony and more than four hours of deliberations.

Plaintiff Brent Davis was awarded $190,000 on a defamation count against his insurer and $125,422 in breach of contract claims. The breach of contract claim was reduced by Davis' $124,922 deductible.

Davis originally sued Country Mutual Insurance Co. for its refusal to pay a 2005 claim he filed after his Granite City home burned in September of that year.

He claimed to have lost more than $300,000 due to the fire. That amount included his home, car and personal belongings.

Davis later added defamation counts to his suit, alleging that Country Mutual and co-defendant Mike Morris wrongfully said he and his then girlfriend Lori Flowers had set the blaze.

Morris was dropped from the suit May 10, the first day of trial.
Insurance agent Matt Crider, another defendant in the suit, was dropped earlier this month.

Country Mutual filed a counterclaim alleging that Davis did set the fire and that the company should be reimbursed for payments it made on his mortgage and for his living expenses prior to the claim's denial.

Country Mutual also claimed that Davis misrepresented the condition of his home prior to the fire.

Testimony ran long in the case as witnesses disagreed about the cause of fire and the condition of the home.

Jurors saw pictures of the fire's aftermath and heard testimony about home repairs that defense experts testified would have cost $98,000 or more to complete.

Jurors heard testimony about a letter sent by a Country Mutual agent to Davis' ex-wife implying that he set the fire. Plaintiff's counsel stressed the letter's alleged timing, coming after Davis supposedly complained to the state's insurance oversight body.

Testimony in the case often went late into the day as jurors heard from experts, Davis's ex-wife and other parties involved in the suit.

The defense case ran over three days.

Brent Davis was represented by Anthony Bruning.

Country Mutual was represented by Douglas Richards.

Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth presided.

The case is Madison case number 06-L-451.

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