Connecticut Supreme Court Grants Plaintiff’s Application for Appraisal

Attorneys Jon D. Biller and Brianna Robert successfully argued for another policyholder whose demand for appraisal of its property damage loss was refused by the insurance company. The insurance company claimed that it did not have to proceed to appraisal because it had raised coverage issues which it claimed had to be adjudicated first. Judge Michael Kamp firmly rejected the carrier’s efforts to delay appraisal in his memorandum of decision dated May 12, 2022.

Attorneys Biller and Robert brought the Plaintiff’s application for appraisal pursuant to General Statutes 52-410(a), which states, “[a] party to a written agreement for arbitration claiming the neglect or refusal or another to proceed with an arbitration thereunder may make to the superior court… for an order directing the parties to proceed with the arbitration in compliance with their agreement. The application shall be by writ of summons and complaint….”

The Plaintiff was an assignee of the policyholder as it had been scheduled to purchase the property prior to the fire loss. The Plaintiff received all of the rights of the insured to its claim. The property sustained damage due to a fire and a dispute arose between the Plaintiff and the insurance company regarding the value of the property and the extent of the damages. The Plaintiff demanded appraisal. When the insurance company refused to proceed to appraisal, Attorneys Biller and Robert filed an Application to Compel Appraisal. The parties briefed the issues and argued before Judge Kamp on two separate occasions.

Judge Kamp rejected the insurance company’s argument that it was entitled to delay or avoid appraisal because it had filed a declaratory judgment action in federal court challenging the validity of the assignment and the measure of recovery. Judge Kamp held that under Connecticut law, an insured is entitled to proceed to appraisal even if the insurance company argues there is a coverage issue that needs to be adjudicated. In his memorandum of decision, Judge Kamp said, “this court could locate no holding that extends beyond the proposition that the court cannot compel arbitration of an issue that must instead be decided by further litigation.” (See, e.g., Ice Cube Building, LLC v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., United States District Court, Docket No. 3:17-CV-00973 (VAB) (D. Conn. June 18, 2018).

Judge Kamp cited to the Supreme Court decision in Giulietti v. Connecticut Ins. Placement Facility and to this office’s recent victory in the Supreme Court in Klass v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co. In Klass, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s order compelling appraisal and rejected the carrier’s argument that issues involving matching are to be decided by a court as opposed to an appraisal panel. 

Following Klass, Judge Kamp in this case agreed with Attorneys Biller and Robert that the fire damage to the property is undisputedly a covered peril and the issue of appraisal is a purely factual question of damages, not a legal question concerning coverage. The court thereby granted the plaintiff’s application to compel appraisal.

This decision marks another successful argument made by Attorneys Biller and Robert for a Connecticut policyholder.

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