Traub Lieberman Partners Kimberly H. Petrina and Jason Taylor defended an insurance producer and its agent in claims brought by a former client seeking damages for the alleged failure to procure adequate crop insurance on the client’s property. The Plaintiff alleged that he requested multiple peril crop insurance, including “Greensnap” coverage of wind damage to crops. Plaintiff suffered wind damage to his crops and eventually sued the producer and agent after being advised the policy did not contain “Greensnap” wind coverage on the property.
Plaintiff issued a series of communications to the insurance producer and the insurance company trying to “get to the bottom” of why his wind claim was denied. Several months after the incident he threatened to file suit if his claim was not resolved. Eventually he retained counsel to continue pre-suit demands for payment for his crop damages. Traub Lieberman was involved at an early stage in the process to refute both the factual and legal premises, which were presented by the Plaintiff to support his claim. Plaintiff eventually filed suit against the insurance producer and agent almost three (3) years after the incident first occurred.
Traub Lieberman was successful in moving to dismiss the claims against the producer and agent based upon a two-year statute of limitations applicable to insurance producers set forth in 735 ILCS 5/13-214.4. The trial court allowed Plaintiff leave to re-plead to assert facts to support a theory of “equitable estoppel” based upon alleged affirmative misrepresentations of the agent. Ultimately, after a second round of motions to dismiss, Traub Lieberman prevailed in obtaining a dismissal, with prejudice, of the producer and agent.
While the trial court found disputed issues of fact as to whether estoppel should apply, it was clear based on the documentary evidence presented that the insured both knew of his injury and that the injury was wrongfully caused 2 ½ to 3 years before suit was filed. The insured was advised by the insurance company that there was no “Greensnap” wind coverage when investigating the loss and that the producer and agent disputed liability. The court also concluded that defendants could not be estopped from asserting a limitations defense because any potential “misconduct” by the defendants terminated within sufficient time for Plaintiff to file suit. Indeed, the Plaintiff threatened litigation against defendants nearly 17-months before the statute of limitations ran and almost 2 ½ years before suit was ultimately filed. Traub Lieberman attorneys were successful in highlighting the role of plaintiff’s counsel in meeting with the unrepresented agent before defense counsel’s retention. The trial court held that equitable estoppel will not apply if the Defendant’s counsel ended within ample time to allow the plaintiff to avail himself of his legal rights, which in this case, the trial court found to be sufficient.
The trial court dismissed all claims against the insurance producer and agent, with prejudice.