Theft & Vandalism Claims

Building owners suffer a huge number of residential and commercial burglary and vandalism losses each year. Many result in disputed insurance claims because insurance policies attempt through fine print and tortuous wording to limit coverage for losses to the actual cash value of the items (e.g., the replacement value less depreciation).

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During this time of trauma, if the insurance company acknowledges coverage for the loss, then insurance adjusters pepper the owner with questions that are unanswerable (“When did you buy the living room coffee table?”). They demand receipts for furnishings that were never kept.

Finally, the insurance company adjuster (whose employer wrote the insurance contract and seeks to minimize any payout) tells you what benefits are provided and in what amount. The adjustment of your loss may vary by several hundred thousand dollars — depending on whether you take the adjuster’s word for it, or hire an independent advocate who represents your interest under the policy exclusively.

My late husband and I owned a rental property in Banks, Oregon. Sadly, unknown to us, our tenants set up a meth late that severely damaged our rental home. The insurance company claimed that there was no coverage based on its tiny print “pollution “exclusion. We greatly appreciated Bob’s taking the case on a contingent fee, and doggedly pursuing the insurance company all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court to establish our right to coverage.
— Kathy Fleming

Notable Cases

Largent v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company, 116 Or. App. 595; 842 P.2d 445 (1992). The first case in Oregon establishing a rental property owner's right to insurance coverage for a tenant's meth lab and invalidating a pollution exclusion.

Fleming v. USAA, 329 Or. 449, 988 P.2d 378 (1999), adhering to on recon., 330 Or 62 (2000). The case that "rocked the insurance biz" by declaring that insurance policy exclusions in a homeowners policy were invalid because they were not sufficiently explanatory.

Parks v. Farmers Insurance Company, 347 Ore 374, 227 P.3d 1127 (2009). This case (involving vandalism to a rental home) established that an insurer that fails to ascertain the loss within six months of the insured's telephone call giving notice of the claim must pay the insured's attorney fees.

Shaffer v. State Farm F&C Insurance Company, 120 Or. App. 70, 852 P.2 245 (1993). One of the first cases in Oregon establishing a homeowner's right to insurance coverage for damage to a rental home from a tenant's meth lab.