Mali v. Federal Insurance Co.

720 F.3d 387 (2013)

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Mali v. Federal Insurance Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
720 F.3d 387 (2013)

RW

Facts

Frederick and Lucretia Mali (plaintiffs) owned a barn and converted it for residential use. The barn burned down, and the Malis filed a claim for approximately $2.3 million from their insurer, Federal Insurance Company (Federal) (defendant). Federal disputed the Malis’ representation that the barn had been expensively furnished and paid only $72,665. The Malis sued the insurer in federal district court to collect the full amount of their claim. During discovery, the Malis denied having any photographs showing the barn’s second-floor interior. At trial, however, one of the Malis’ witnesses testified that she had seen such a photograph. The trial judge instructed the jurors that if they believed that the photograph existed and that the Malis had failed to satisfactorily explain its nonproduction, the jurors could, but need not, infer that the photograph would have been unfavorable to the Malis. The jurors specifically found that the photograph existed and returned their verdict for Federal. The Malis appealed to the Second Circuit where, citing Residential Funding Corp. v. DeGeorge Financial Corp. as precedent, they argued that the trial judge’s instruction constituted an improper sanction.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Leval, J.)

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