Federal Jury Awards Million Dollar Verdict to Business Owners Falsely Accused of Arson by Insurance Company

Portland, OR—A federal jury awarded Steve and Rena Muller damages in the amount of $1,082,500 after their insurance company refused to pay them following the loss of their auto shop business.  The Mullers’ insurance company refused to pay their insurance claim, instead accusing the Mullers of arson.  Attorneys Andrew C. Lauersdorf, Francis J. Maloney, and Scott A. MacLaren, from the Maloney Lauersdorf Reiner law firm, along with Robert Bonaparte from the Shenker & Bonaparte law firm, represented the Mullers in an eight-day jury trial against the insurance company in federal court in Portland, Oregon.  The million-dollar verdict came after a nearly five-year struggle and involved fire investigators and other experts from around the state.

The Mullers’ struggle began on November 18, 2012.  The Mullers, with their two young children, locked up their home and their auto shop next door, and hit the road from La Grande to Klamath Falls to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with friends.  Their holiday ended abruptly when they received a phone call from a neighbor reporting that their auto shop was on fire.  The Mullers, who were almost four hours away outside of Madras when they received the call, immediately turned around and headed back home.  They found their auto shop destroyed when they arrived.

When the Mullers turned to their insurance company for help, the insurance company denied the claim.  The insurance company refused to pay the Mullers for their loss, and instead accused the Mullers of committing arson, despite digital photographs, video surveillance records, and cell phone records that corroborated the Mullers’ version of events on the day of the fire and proved that the Mullers were almost four hours away from the auto shop when the fire started.

“The Mullers have been fighting this battle for four and a half years.  They were falsely accused of arson, and they have been dragged through the mud, in addition to losing their shop.  We are very happy for the Mullers and thrilled that the jury made this right,” said trial attorney Andrew C. Lauersdorf.