A Riverside, California, jury has awarded an $8.46 million verdict, including $8 million in punitive damages, to a Riverside man whose insurance claim on his fire-damaged RV was denied by an insurance company acting in bad faith.
Three days before Christmas in 2017, Octavio Lopez was told his RV had caught fire which completely destroyed the vehicle. The initial investigation showed it was an electrical fire and that no “accelerants” were found inside the RV, but once his insurance company realized this was covered under his policy the company performed a second investigation claiming the fire had been intentionally set and even suggested Mr. Lopez had something to do with it.
Mr. Lopez’s claim was denied on grounds he’d misrepresented the incident and filed a fraudulent claim. After a three-week trial, the jury sided with Mr. Lopez and found that National General was acting in bad faith by denying the claim to suit its own bottom line. The jury awarded him the $8.46 million verdict.
“National General reached a conclusion and manipulated the facts to fit that conclusion rather than act fairly and let the facts dictate the investigation,” said attorney Sagi Schwartzberg. “Octavio Lopez was insured by National General, was in good-standing on his policy and wasn’t even at home when the fire occurred. National General Assurance did everything it could to deny this man his claim, going so far as to perform multiple investigations and even investigate his family in this clear act of insurance bad faith.”
Mr. Lopez purchased a brand new 2013 Thor Motor Coach in December of 2014. That same day, Mr. Lopez purchased insurance for his new RV from National General. On December 22, 2017, Mr. Lopez left his house at roughly 11 a.m. to go to work and while driving he received a phone call from his ex-girlfriend telling him the RV was on fire. Upon his return home, the Riverside Fire Department had already extinguished it, the RV destroyed. Mr. Lopez reported the fire incident that same day to National General which sent an investigator out on December 26 to examine the vehicle. The investigator immediately found the incident suspicious. His notes indicated he thought the RV was “set” on fire” rather than had “caught” fire.
On December 30, an investigator did a thorough inspection, taking more than 260 photographs of the RV, and on January 2, 2018, reported that the investigator “explained no signs of arson and this is a clear electrical fire.” The investigator also reported “no signs of intentional fire or arson.” In spite of these findings and several witnesses who corroborated the facts, the investigation continued. On February 5, the insurance company received a second report claiming the fire originated in two separate areas and was caused by the actions of an unknown person.
Although Mr. Lopez provided all relevant documents when requested and provided an affidavit, the policy claim was ultimately denied forcing Mr. Lopez to file an insurance bad faith lawsuit to settle the claim.
The case is Octavio Lopez v. National General Assurance Company, Riverside Superior Court, Case No. RiC1808463. Mr. Lopez was represented by the law firm of Schwartzberg | Luther, APC.