Nicole Vinson | Property Insurance Coverage Law Blog | October 31, 2015
When submitting a claim to an insurance company, a policyholder has certain obligations that must be followed. The insurance policy contract lists the obligations. The policy document was written by the insurance company and approved (most of the time) by the insurance regulatory agency for the state where the property is located. Insurance contracts are usually “take it or leave it” when it comes to the wording of the provisions. An insured can buy endorsements to the policy, add additional insurance, and change deductibles but the language about the coverage and the explanation of what is excluded is not something an insured can make edits or changes to for the insurance company to consider and make part of the contract.
Since the contract is one of adhesion, the insurance company usually gets the benefits of many policy provisions as company forms are being applied to a loss. In an interesting case in Georgia, a court recently ruled about the obligations of a homeowner to produce telephone call recordings.1
Ms. Elaine Armstead’s home suffered a grease fire that damaged her kitchen, her floors, and smoke filled her house. Allstate had “preferred vendors” repair the Armstead home, but Allstate under paid the claim and Allstate’s “go to” contractors caused additional damage when trying to repair the home.
During the claim process, Ms. Armstead was required under her policy to attend an Examination Under Oath. During this statement under oath, Ms. Armstead mentioned that she recorded some of her telephone conversations during the claim process with Allstate. Keep in mind, these calls were with representatives of Allstate. In addition to giving the testimony, Ms. Armstead produced a sworn statement of her damages that exceeded Allstate’s valuation of $20,000, instead claiming $76,000.00 to repair her home to the pre-loss condition.
Allstate told Ms. Armstead it wanted copies of the calls she had recorded with Allstate’s representatives. Ms. Armstead did not provide those recordings and instead sued for breach of contract and bad faith.
The federal court judge applying Georgia law held that because of the specific wording of Ms. Armstead’s insurance policy, she was not required to turn over those recordings.