United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION & ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
F. COX UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
had a homeowners insurance policy with Defendant and filed a
claim after a fire at her home. After Defendant denied her
claim, Plaintiff filed this action. Following the close of
discovery, Defendant filed the instant summary judgment
motion. Defendant asserts that it is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law because Plaintiff submitted a personal
property inventory that included a number of items that it
alleges were copied from another one previously submitted to
Defendant by another insured, and therefore, Plaintiff
violated the insurance policy's concealment and fraud
provision. The parties have briefed the issues and the Court
heard oral argument on September 12, 2019. The Court shall
DENY the motion because the issue of whether Plaintiff had an
intent to defraud Defendant, under the facts presented here,
is a question of fact for the jury.
Sheronda Madkins filed this action against Defendant State
Farm Fire and Casualty Company in state court and Defendant
removed it to federal Court, based on diversity jurisdiction.
Plaintiff's complaint includes the following counts: 1)
“Breach of Contract” (Count I); 2)
“Violation of the Uniform Trade Practices Act”
(Count II); 3) “Insurance Bad Faith” (Count III);
and 4) “Declaratory Relief for Insurance Bad
Faith” (Count IV).
Scheduling Order in this case reflects that discovery closed
on April 29, 2019. On May 29, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion
for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff filed a response brief
opposing the motion on June 19, 2019. Defendant did not file
a reply brief in support of its motion. The motion was heard
on September 12, 2019.
support of its summary judgment motion, Defendant filed a
Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute, as directed in
this Court's practice guidelines. In response, Plaintiff
filed a “Counter-Statement of Material Facts Not in
Dispute” but it does not entirely align with the
paragraphs set forth in Defendant's statement.
undisputed that Plaintiff was insured with Defendant under a
homeowners insurance policy and that Plaintiff's home had
a fire on November 22, 2018. A copy of the insurance policy
is attached as Exhibit A to Defendant's motion. Plaintiff
alleges, and Defendant does not appear to dispute, that it
was a “total loss” fire.
the fire, Plaintiff retained Raymond Fair as a Public
Adjuster, to assist her in the preparation, presentation and
adjusting of her insurance claim. (See
Plaintiff's “Residential Public Adjusting
Contract” with Raymond Fair, attached as Exhibit B to
Mr. Fair's assistance, Plaintiff signed and submitted a
“Proof of Loss” form to Defendant, claiming
damages for the building in the amount of $226, 005.00 and
claiming $97, 000.00 in damages for its contents. (Ex. C to
Def.'s Motion). These figures were noted to be
“subject to change.” An itemized written list of
personal property (“the Inventory”) was also
submitted to Defendant in relation to Plaintiff's claim.
The Inventory was not signed by Plaintiff. It is undisputed
that the Inventory that was submitted to Defendant regarding
Plaintiff's claim had the name “Monique
Sinkfield” at the top of the document, rather than
Plaintiff's name (Sheronda Madkins).
testified that he prepared the Inventory after meeting with
Plaintiff on more than one occasion. (Fair Dep. at 29-30).
Fair used a previous inventory he had prepared for another
client named Monique Sinkfield to ask questions to Plaintiff
to jog her memory regarding various items she may have lost.
(Id. at 30-33). Fair testified that he asked
Plaintiff questions, line-byline, as he reviewed the various
items on the prior inventory and “pretty much copied
and paste, you know, as we went through our
conversation.” (Id.). Fair testified that he
incorrectly left the name Monique Sinkfield on the top of the
Inventory he submitted for Plaintiff's claim.
testified that her understanding of the Inventory was that it
is “my stuff that I lost” in the fire. (Pl.'s
2/23/18 Dep. at 91). Her Public Adjuster prepared it, with
her assistance. (Id.). Plaintiff testified:
Q. All right. So was it like - tell me how you prepared it?
A. I couldn't remember everything that was in my house
because I've been there for a minute. So he showed me
paperwork to try to jog my memory, did I have this, did I
have that. So he depreciated the numbers. So he depreciated
the suff I had and how long I had it for.
Q. Did you draft this while you were at his office?
A. I was at his office.
Q. He showed you things -
A. Like previous cases he had, he showed me different things,
like pots, pans, T-shirts, trying to make me remember things
that was in my home.
Q. I see. So he showed you like someone else's inventory?
Q. And so you said, oh, I had that?
(Id. at 91-92). Plaintiff further testified, during
her second deposition:
Q. Now, there was a second Proof of Loss that was filed . . .
do you recall seeing a document like this which is marked as
Exhibit 2 which is the Proof of Loss that was submitted to
A. This ...