The Massachusetts Appeals Court just said NO today to a greedy insurance company, OneBeacon Insurance, which tried to collect an extra several hundred thousands of dollars as reimbursement for an insurance claim. The case was a victory for Massachusetts consumers in general, and for one family in particular who recovered a treasured family heirloom.
The case centered on a family portrait which had been painted in Italy in 1765. The portrait was of family ancestors and was painted by an artist whose works had appreciated in value significantly in the last thirty years.
Unfortunately, this family portrait was one of several items stolen from the family home in 1975. The family had a total of $32,500 in insurance to cover the loss (the loss was much greater). The painting itself had recently been appraised at $25,000. The insurance company (which was a predecessor to OneBeacon) paid the policy limits.
Fortunately, the painting was recovered in 2007. But unfortunately, OneBeacon Insurance Company claimed it owned the work of art, which had increased in value to between $400,000 and $800,000. The family offered to reimburse OneBeacon for the payment of $25,000, but the insurance company refused to settle.
The Massachusetts courts had little regard for the insurance company’s avarice. The Superior Court and the Appeals Court both ruled that the insurer’s “subrogation” right ended with reimbursement; that the contract had no ambiguity whether the family should receive the art if they made the reimbursement; and that the insurance company had no basis for its insurance claim for compound interest on the payment for the claim.
The family portrait has now been returned to its rightful owner.
Massachusetts legal and insurance expert David White said, “This was a clear example of an insurance company attempting to overreach. They had no regard for this family or even their own insurance contract.”
So score this legal battle: Massachusetts Consumers 2, Greedy Insurance Company 0.
The name of the case is Apthorp v. OneBeacon Insurance Group, LLC, Massachusetts Appeals Court No. 09-P-1258 (October 18, 2010)
Some practical consumer advice: If you are a homeowner, make sure you are fully insured for any property loss. You can sometimes actually save money by having valuables, such as jewelry or art, appraised and scheduled separately on the homeowner’s insurance policy. Make sure your home and personal property are fully protected in case of fire, theft, or other loss.