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Anderson v. Continental Insurance Co.

271 N.W.2d 368 (1978)

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Anderson v. Continental Insurance Co.

Wisconsin Supreme Court

271 N.W.2d 368 (1978)

Facts

Homeowners Jacob Anderson and his wife (plaintiffs) had a homeowner’s insurance policy with Continental Insurance Company (Continental) (defendant) that covered losses from fire, explosions, or smoke. The Andersons’ furnace caused a fire or explosion that covered the home’s walls, carpeting, furniture, and draperies with oil and smoke residue. The next day, the Andersons notified Continental of the damage. Continental delegated the claim to Underwriters Adjusting Company (Underwriters) (defendant). Underwriters attempted to renovate and clean the home, but the Andersons subsequently had to repaint, clean, restore, and replace the carpets at their own expense of over $4,600. The Andersons attempted to negotiate but received only unreasonable offers from Underwriters and Continental. The Andersons retained counsel, who timely filed a sworn proof of loss detailing the damages. The proof of loss was transmitted to Underwriters to the attention of manager Bernard Anderson (defendant), but it was sent back within the week. The proof of loss was then submitted to Continental, which referred it to a vice president in charge of the western department of Continental. Two weeks later, the Andersons’ counsel asked for the status. About two weeks later, Continental responded that it had been referred to Bernard Anderson, who was authorized to handle the claim. Continental again returned the proof of loss. The Andersons filed suit against Continental, Underwriters, and Bernard Anderson alleging intentional bad faith in refusing to accept and settle the claim. The suit sought compensatory and punitive damages. The trial court granted a motion to dismiss, asserting that an insured may not bring a bad-faith claim against an insurer. The Andersons appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Heffernan, J.)

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