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Meat Town v. Sentinel Insurance Company, Ltd

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 22, 2019

MEAT TOWN, Plaintiff,



         Meat Town was robbed and vandalized in November 2015. Meat Town then lost its remaining property in a fire in December 2015. Meat Town submitted two claims (one for the robbery and vandalism, one for the fire) to its insurer, Sentinel Insurance Company. The robbery and vandalism claim included tens-of-thousands of dollars in damaged or stolen meat products. After an investigation, Sentinel was skeptical. In the insurance company's view, some of the claimed damaged or stolen meat had never been delivered to Meat Town. So Sentinel did not pay that claim (or the fire one). Meat Town eventually sued. Sentinel now seeks summary judgment on the basis that Meat Town's insurance claims included material misrepresentations and thus, the insurance policy is void. The Court agrees with Sentinel to the extent set out below.


         Before the winter of 2015, Meat Town had been in business for over 20 years. As its name suggests, Meat Town stored and sold large quantities of meat-everything from chicken wing-dings to hog maws. The meat was displayed in and around the north, south, and east meat counters.

         The three counters were located in a large retail area. The entire retail area was refrigerated with the aid of, among other things, ceiling-mounted evaporator coils. (See ECF No. 15, PageID.223, 333, 334.) The picture below gives a sense of one of the meat counters, the surrounding food, and the ceiling-mounted evaporator coils.

         (Image Omitted)

         (ECF No. 15, PageID.334.) In addition to the three counters, Meat Town stored and sold meat in two display freezers-the north freezer and the west freezer. (ECF No. 15, PageID.263, 266.)

         In the fall of 2015, Meat Town was facing some financial difficulties. In particular, on September 4, 2015, a state court entered a judgment of possession in favor of Meat Town's landlord (JAM Properties, Inc.) because Meat Town owed $12, 000 in rent. (ECF No. 15, PageID.361.) Meat Town was also behind on paying its electric bill. Meat Town suggests that it had inadvertently failed to pay the bill (ECF No. 15, PageID.366), but other evidence suggests that Meat Town lacked the funds to pay the electric company. Indeed, Meat Town's bank account had $450, $1, 914, -$870, and -$570 at the start of August, September, October, and November 2015, respectively. (ECF No. 15, PageID.121, 126, 131, 137.) But whether due to inadvertence or inability to pay, the bottom line is that Meat Town owed the electric company at least $3, 000 by November 2015. (ECF No. 16, PageID.976-977.) And because Meat Town had not paid its bill, the electric company shut off Meat Town's power around noon on November 10, 2015. (ECF No. 15, PageID.193.)

         Later that very day, Meat Town was vandalized and robbed.

         The next day, November 11, 2015, Meat Town retained Claim Consultants International to help it figure out what had been destroyed and what had been stolen. According to a detailed “Summary of Loss” statement prepared by CCI on Meat Town's behalf, meat and other food in and around the three counters and in the two freezers was “covered with glass and debris.” (ECF No. 15, PageID.218.) The value of this unsalable food was about $52, 000. (Id.) The Summary of Loss further asserted that the perpetrators stole another $63, 000 in meat. (ECF No. 15, PageID.218.) Further, the Summary of Loss stated that the cost to replace or repair damaged equipment, including the ceiling-mounted evaporator coils that the perpetrators allegedly vandalized, was nearly $190, 000. (Id.) In all, Meat Town (via the Summary of Loss) claimed $307, 000 in losses. (ECF No. 15, PageID.218.)

         Things went from bad to worse for Meat Town. After the November 10 vandalism and robbery, Meat Town did not reopen for business. (ECF No. 15, PageID.158.) Then, on December 19, 2015, there was a break-in and a fire. (ECF No. 15, PageID.281.) The fire destroyed Meat Town's remaining property. Although the cause of the fire was initially unknown, an insurance investigator later found that the cause was arson. (ECF No. 16, PageID.885; ECF No. 15, PageID.289.) Meat Town again retained CCI to help it itemize its losses. (ECF No. 15, PageID.292.)

         On December 24, 2015, Meat Town submitted its summary of loss for the vandalism and robbery to its insurer, Sentinel Insurance Company, Ltd. (See ECF No. 16, PageID.629, 999.) And on March 7, 2016, Meat Town submitted its claim based on the fire to Sentinel. (See ECF No. 16, PageID.637, 999.)

         Sentinel did not decide whether it would pay the two claims for a long time. But the insurance policy Sentinel issued Meat Town only gave the meat company two years to sue over an unpaid claim. So, at right around two years after the vandalism and robbery, Meat Town filed this lawsuit. (See ECF No. 1.)

         Sentinel seeks summary judgment on several grounds. (See ECF No. 15.) As will become apparent, the only ground that the Court needs to address is Sentinel's claim that every reasonable jury would find that Meat Town intentionally ...

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