Client Prevails In Extracontractual-Claims Appeal Against Adjuster
April 24, 2017
GTTC Partner Jeffrey I. Tilden, along with co-counsel Will Smart and Ian Birk of Keller Rohrback, represents the plaintiff in a putative class action against York Risk Services Group, Inc. (“York”), a large international insurance adjuster.
On August 5, 2012, the Bernd storage warehouse in Yakima, Washington burned to the ground, destroying millions of dollars’ worth of belongings of 38 storage customers. Bernd had purchased a Business Personal Property policy from American Guarantee & Liability Insurance Company (“American”). American hired York to adjust the claims on its behalf.
Plaintiffs filed a class action against York, asserting that York wrongfully: (1) failed to disclose substantial insurance coverage available to cover the property loss; and (2) instructed its representatives to tell its customers that they did not know if there was any coverage. Plaintiffs asserted claims against York for bad faith, misrepresentation, and violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act. The trial court dismissed those claims on grounds that York is an adjuster and not an insurer.
The Washington Court of Appeals, Division III, reversed and held that York is potentially liable for the full range of extracontractual claims. This opinion is significant in that it confirms adjusters acting on behalf of insurers will be held to the same standards of conduct as the insurers for which they act. Division III also affirmed the trial court’s finding that the 38 warehouse customers were first-party claimants under the insurance policy, and directed the trial court to revisit its ruling decertifying the class action against York.