close
close

Jury awards sisters $18 million from insurance company that offered only $5,000 for storm damage – San Bernardino Sun

Jury awards sisters  million from insurance company that offered only ,000 for storm damage – San Bernardino Sun

A San Bernardino County jury awarded two women $18 million after determining their insurance company acted in bad faith when it failed to pay more than $100,000 to cover repairs to their home damaged by flooding.

Jurors awarded Pinon Hills residents Jennifer Garnier and Angela Toft $6 million for pain and suffering and $12 million in punitive damages April 18 following a six-week trial before Superior Court in San Bernardino, said their attorney, Michael Hernandez of San Diego.

According to a lawsuit filed in San Bernardino Superior Court in September 2020, rainwater from a large storm on Feb. 15, 2019, flooded the home of Garnier and Toft, who are sisters. The damage made their property uninhabitable, according to the lawsuit.

Garnier and Toft, according to the suit, timely notified their insurance company, Arizona-based American Reliable, of the damage, and American Reliable had an inspection of the property performed. But the adjuster, according to the lawsuit, underpaid the claim.

Water and mud in the home’s crawl space destroyed the heating and cooling system and damaged the electrical system, leaving much of the home without power. Cracks began to appear on the walls of the home, Hernandez said in a news release.

Garnier and Toft then sued American Reliable Insurance Co. and its parent company, Global Indemnity, for breach of contract and breach of good faith and fair dealing. Global Indemnity paid only $5,000 for the sisters’ claim, even though Garnier and Toft had provided contractor estimates that the repairs would cost more than $100,000.

Hernandez said the siblings were forced to live in their home without heat for about five years while they fought their insurance company in court. However, in October 2023, Global Indemnity paid the sisters $140,000, the full amount of their policy, claiming that the insurance company was previously unaware that Garnier and Toft were living without heat. The company argued it was an oversight that its insurance adjuster missed, Hernandez said in the news release.

During the trial, defense attorneys argued that it was difficult to communicate with Garnier and Toft because they insisted everything had to be in writing and that they would not speak on the phone, Hernandez said.

Hernandez said in the press release that American Reliable and Global Indemnity had repeatedly received information about Garnier and Toft’s living conditions, but had ignored the information.

“We argued that when you knowingly place a family in an uninhabitable home, you can’t come back later and say you’re not responsible for the consequences,” Hernandez said.

Lawyers for American Reliable and Global Indemnity did not respond to requests for comment.