In another high-value case result for Cutt, Kendell & Olson, our managing partner, Jordan P. Kendell won over $870,000 on behalf of our client, Bear River Mutual Insurance. In the midst of making a product liability claim against Ford, Bear River had their lawsuit derailed when experts lost the critical evidence.
What Did Ford Do Wrong?
On July 23, 2011 a family-home caught fire, causing over $1,000,000 in damages. The family was insured by Bear River, who hired Intermountain Claims, Inc. (ICI) and MorrFire Investigations, LLC, to investigate the cause and origin of the fire.
During ICI’s initial investigation, an agent for the company determined that a 1994 Ford F-150 pickup in the family’s garage caused the fire. The pickup was part of a recall of over 14 million Ford vehicles manufactured with a defective Speed Controlled Deactivation Switch (SCDS) known to cause fires in vehicles even when they were parked and turned off. Thousands of fires resulted as a consequence of the manufacturing failure.
During the investigation of the fire scene, ICI recovered the defective part, labeled it as evidence and transferred it to MorrFire investigations, a national expert in SCDS-caused fires for testing. At MorrFire, Scanning Electron Microscopy of the SCDS components recovered from the fire, confirmed that the part had failed and caused the fire. MorrFire sent the parts back to ICI via UPS Ground, where the delivery was received and signed for.
Bear River Makes a Claim Against Ford
Following the fire investigation, Bear River filed a federal subrogation action against Ford. A subrogation action allows an insurance company to recover damages from a third party, who’s negligence caused the damage to their insured.
In order to defend their claim, Ford asked for the SCDS components to be sent to their own experts for inspection. Bear River requested the evidence from its experts, ICI and MorrFire, neither of whom could produce it. ICI reported the evidence lost.
Spoliation of Evidence
Although Bear River attempted to move on with their claim, Ford was able to counter the federal action due to spoliation of evidence. On May 22, 2017, Bear River’s claims against Ford were dismissed in Federal Court because the crucial evidence was lost.
Bear River Awarded Damages
CKO managing partner, Jordan Kendell, represented Bear River in its professional negligence suit against MorrFire and ICI. A six-person jury found that ICI was 85% liable for Bear River’s losses and awarded our client $873,135.97 in damages.
Mr. Kendell said of the verdict, “After nearly eight years of litigation, we are thrilled to deliver a successful resolution for our client.”
Cutt, Kendell & Olson: Professionals in Product Liability and Insurance
If you need help holding a negligent manufacturer accountable, or a second look at your insurance company’s practices, call us today at (801) 901-3470.
Read more in our Press Release.