Firm News

Robert Muth and Peter Viteznik Score Arbitration Victory

Robert Muth and Peter Viteznik successfully represented their custom home builder client in the arbitration of a claim for breach of contract for failure to pay. After a 5-day arbitration, the three-panel arbitration awarded KVL’s client 95% of the amounts due. The arbitration involved significant legal issues involving the differences between a cost-plus construction contract and a fixed price contract. Robert and Pete were successful in defending the contractor’s claims. The arbitrators unanimously found the homeowners had failed to remit monies due and refuted defenses involving unsigned change orders and overstated construction costs. The lesson learned from the arbitration was to ensure contractors have a clear and unambiguous contract reciting the true nature of the agreement – whether it be cost-plus or fixed price. Clear and concise drafting, as well as client communication, will avoid future disputes. Robert and Pete are both available to review construction contracts and advise as to revisions to existing contracts.

Rob May to present on Underwriter, Agency and Claim Handling Ethics

Rob May will present to the Spokane chapter of the CPCU Society. Covid-19 won’t prevent attorney Rob May from presenting to the Spokane, Washington chapter of the CPCU Society in July, 2020. What was scheduled to be a live seminar on underwriter, agency and claim handling ethics on March 18, 2020 will be live-by-video presentation spread out over three consecutive Thursday mornings in July.

Bench Trial Victory in Spokane County

After an expedited one-day bench trial that concluded on March 16, 2020, the day before courts closed due to Covid-19, the Spokane County Superior Court issued a ruling in favor of Robert May’s client. Following several disputes and one physical altercation between neighbors, Rob’s client placed a fence along the property line separating the litigants. Plaintiffs immediately sued, alleging five claims against Rob’s client, including that the fence was placed on their property and constituted a “spite fence” under Washington law. Plaintiffs also alleged personal injuries and intentional infliction of emotional distress by Rob’s client. At trial plaintiffs called a surveyor who testified that the fence installed by Rob’s client was on plaintiffs’ property. On cross examination, plaintiffs’ surveyor admitted that he had never actually located the original survey monuments that marked the property line and that, based upon the relative positional accuracy of this survey, he could not guarantee that the fence was actually placed on plaintiffs’ property. The Spokane Superior Court issued a trial ruling in favor of Rob’s client as to all claims.

Directed Verdict in King County

Robert May obtained a directed verdict in a King County wrongful death trial that began March 2, 2020. Plaintiff filed suit against Rob’s client alleging she was liable as a quasi-commercial vendor of alcohol and failed to obtain a banquet permit to serve alcohol at a company function. The King County Superior Court dismissed Rob’s client on the basis that plaintiff had not, and could not, meet its burden to prove quasi-commercial liability and that, even if a banquet permit was required to serve alcohol at the function, failure to procure the permit did not establish a standard of care under Washington liquor liability laws. After Rob’s client was dismissed the remaining defendents stipulated to a judgement of over $8,000,000.

Defense Verdict – USDC

Jere Tolton successfully achieved final summary judgment for a life insurance client in Reynolds v. Great-West Life & Annuity. The Plaintiff, a beneficiary of life insurance coverage that provided double indemnity for accidental death, sued in federal district court in Florida for $2,000,000. Plaintiff alleged the insured, his father, was totally disabled at the time he died and that his premiums should have been excused under a waiver of premium provision previously included in the policy when it was purchased. He accused the insurer of wrongfully terminating the policy based on circumstances leading to the previous cancellation of the premium waiver benefit. The U.S. District Court found in favor of the insurer, and granted its motion for summary judgment, reasoning that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate an evidentiary justification for excusing the lapse of coverage due to non-payment of premium. The case is currently on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Robert May presents at DRI event in Chicago

Robert May teamed up with San Diego attorney Michelle Burton to present on the topic of product warnings at a DRI event in Chicago. This two-day event was held at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in downtown Chicago. The event drew on a faculty from across the country to cover topics ranging from medical liability, federal regulation, banking and insurance related to the marijuana industry.

Defense Verdict in King County

Robert May obtained a defense verdict in a recent dog attack trial in a King County. Plaintiff alleged that a dog belonging to Rob’s client aggressively charged him while walking in front of the client’s house, causing him to fall. Plaintiff suffered an acetabular fracture of his right hip in the fall, requiring two surgeries to repair, incurring medical bills of $260,000. Plaintiff alleged the dog’s owner was liable for failing to restrain the dog and allowing the dog to run unrestrained in a public area, in violation of the City of Issaquah “leash law”. Rob argued his client’s dog never left the yard and didn’t cause plaintiff to fall.

This case was unique in that liability turned upon the character of the dog and whether it was foreseeable to Rob’s client that her dog may leave the yard to chase after pedestrians. Plaintiff attempted to call an animal behaviorist to testify the dog exhibited “territorial aggression” when it charged toward plaintiff, that it was unreasonable to have the dog off leash in her front yard and that plaintiff’s resulting injury was foreseeable. Rob successfully excluded the majority of this expert’s testimony. Rob also successfully excluded a medical doctor called by plaintiff to testify that the biomechanics of plaintiff’s fall was consistent with plaintiff’s testimony and inconsistent with Rob’s client’s testimony.

The jury deliberated for three hours before returning a unanimous verdict for Rob’s client.

Robert May will be presenting to the Combined Claims Conference

Robert May will present on ethical issues faced by insurance producers, brokers and agents at the Combined Claims Conference in Pasadena, California March 6 and 7, 2018.

Robert May will be presenting to the Oregon IASIU Insurance Fraud Conference

Robert May will present an arson case study at the annual meeting of the International Association of SIU investigators. His presentation will be on October 20, 2017 in Portland, Oregon.

Robert May will be presenting to the Los Angeles All Industry Day

Robert May has been invited to present to the Los Angeles chapter of the CPCU Society on claim practices. His presentation will be on October 17, 2017 in Studio City, California.