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Reaves v. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Co.

United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division

May 26, 2015

JACQUELINE REAVES, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLSTATE PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [16]

LAURIE J. MICHELSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Jacqueline Reaves has sued Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company for refusing to pay for losses arising from a fire at her home. Allstate seeks summary judgment against Reaves on the grounds that she made fraudulent statements during its investigation of her claim. The Court finds that a reasonable jury could believe Reaves did not intend to mislead Allstate, and therefore denies summary judgment.

I. FACTUAL RECORD

The evidence is presented in the light most favorable to Reaves, as the party opposing summary judgment. Reaves objects to most of the exhibits attached to Allstate’s motion, primarily because they were not “authenticated by a proper affidavit explaining the document’s authenticity or applicability.” (Resp. at 11.)[1] Allstate attached affidavits to its reply brief to provide foundation for the objected-to exhibits. Nonetheless, the Court finds the objected-to exhibits are unnecessary to resolve the motion. Therefore, the following facts are based only on the two exhibits to which Reaves does not object: the transcript of Reaves’s examination under oath, and the deposition transcript for Lesley Buerkle. (See Resp. at 11.)

The parties do not dispute that on August 1, 2013, a fire occurred at Reaves’ home. (Mot. at 1; Resp. at 1.) They also do not dispute that at the time, her home and personal property were insured under a homeowners’ insurance policy issued by Allstate. (Id.; see Mot. Ex. B, Policy.) And Reaves admits, on information and belief, that Allstate used an outside investigator, Robert Trenkle, for part of its investigation into the cause and origin of the fire at Reaves’s home. (Mot. at 1; Resp. at 1.)

On September 27, 2013, Reaves was examined under oath by a lawyer for Allstate. (See Resp. Ex. A; Resp. at 3, EUO Tr.) She testified that the morning of the fire, she left at about 10 a.m. to drive her teenaged son to summer school, and then returned home. (EUO Tr. at 78–79.)

She said she was the only person in the house. (Id. at 77–79.) Reaves’ husband and other children were at her mother-in-law’s house; they often stayed there for days at a time in the summer because of the swimming pool there. (Id. at 73–75.) Reaves said she watched television and made herself fried chicken and french fries to eat. (Id. at 79, 89.) She used two pans. (Id. at 89.) She did not think that she left the burners on, although they were found in the on position after the fire. (Id. at 90.) She said if she did leave the burners on after she was done cooking, she did not do it on purpose. (Id. at 108.) Reaves said she left the house again at about 11 a.m. (Id. at 79.) She said was in a rush to leave and she ate her food as she walked out the door because she needed to finish what she had to do before it was time to pick her son up from school. (Id. at 91.) She testified as follows:

Q. All right. Where did you go?
A. I picked up my cousin and went to the unemployment office.
Q. All right. So, the first thing you did is you drove to your cousin’s house?
A. Yes.
Q. And what is the cousin’s name?
A. Well, no. I stopped at my doctor’s office.
Q. Okay. Now, wait. Wait. You left the house. Where’s the first place you went after you left your house?
A. Down Kelly Road, because my doctor’s office is that way, to see if I can get in to see him really quickly. Couldn’t get in to see him.
Q. Did you have an ...

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