$4,000,000 :: Cleanmaster v. Fireman’s Fund Ins. Co.

SETTLEMENT : Insurer claimed that plaintiff set fire to his own business

In March 1985, a fire completely destroyed the commercial building Cleanmaster used for its wholesale janitor supply business. Shortly following this disaster, the owners filed a claim for approximately $1.4 million to cover the losses. Their insurance company refused to pay up.

For two years, the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company disputed the both the amount of coverage and claimed that Cleanmaster procured the fire. In 1987, insurance company representatives sent an unsolicited check for $740,000, approximately one-half of the original claim and again underscored their belief the fire was solicited by the business owners.

Attorney Lawrence R. Booth took the case, representing Cleanmaster business owners and their right to the money still owed to them by the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. Booth and associates worked tirelessly to prove that not only was Cleanmaster entitled to the original $1.4 million claim for the destroyed property, but that the years of delay and stress related directly to that delay amounted to insurance bad faith and inflicted emotional distress on the owners.

Four years after the fire and on the day before the civil trial, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company sought out a settlement. Even here, they insisted that the suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire, primarily based on the alleged financial difficulties of the business, justified the delay. Booth countered with bad faith and emotional distress and procured his client a settlement of $4,000,000 in addition to the $740,000 paid out in 1987.

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