The EUO Is a Serious and Important Part of the Insurer’s Investigation
The following is an excerpt from my new book available at Amazon.com: “The Insurance Examination Under Oath.”
Contrary to the Belief of Lawyers for the Insured, the EUO Is Not an Adversary Proceeding like a Deposition in a Lawsuit.
The EUO is an investigative tool made available to the insurer. It allows the insurer to delve deeply and under oath into all aspects of the policy and the loss. The testimony to be elicited is not constrained by rules of discovery or the Codes of Civil Procedure.
The only restraint on the EUO is reasonableness. Unlimited questions are allowed. Only totally irrelevant and unreasonable questions dealing with facts completely outside the policy, its acquisition or the loss are not favored.
Irrelevant questions are tolerated if there is any possibility the question may lead to an inquiry about facts relevant to the policy or claim. In fact, there are no questions that are irrelevant in an EUO since each question may lead to more important information that could never have been learned about had not a foundation been laid by questions that appear, on their face, to be irrelevant. Since there are no rules for the taking of the EUO any question asked is important and must be answered.
In Ram v. Infinity Select Ins., 807 F.Supp.2d 843 (2011), during the investigation of the insured’s claim, the plaintiff produced limited records. Where an insurer has reason to suspect fraud in relation to a theft claim, inquiries into the insured’s financial status are relevant and material, and a refusal to answer questions on that subject constitutes a material breach of the insurance contract. Plaintiff refused to discuss his 2008 income at his EUO, and much of the income and employment information that he was willing to provide throughout the investigation of his claim is admittedly false. The Court found that Plaintiff’s failure to answer income questions constitutes a breach of the duty to cooperate, and no reasonable juror could find otherwise.
In Deguchi v. Allstate Ins. Co., Not Reported in F.Supp.2d, 2008 WL 1780271 (D.Hawai’I, 2008) a case where Plaintiffs’ testimony raised even more questions of possible motive, Plaintiffs prevented Allstate from further investigating and determining coverage under the Policy. Specifically, Deguchi refused to submit to a further EUO, and Plaintiffs’ attorney limited Scalas’ EUO to questions on the Princess Natasha, her loss, the two crew aboard her at the time of the loss, and her value. Under the specific circumstances of this case, the court found that Allstate’s requests for EUOs were reasonable as a matter of law. Deguchi, by refusing to allow a second EUO, and Scalas, by refusing to answer even basic questions, breached Plaintiffs’ duty under the Policy to “submit to examinations under oath” as reasonably required by Allstate. Because Plaintiffs’ refusal prevented Allstate from determining coverage under the Policy, Allstate had no duty to pay Plaintiffs under the Policy.
Similarly, in Powell v. United States Fid. & Guar. Co., 88 F.3d 271 (4th Cir.1996), the insureds’ home was destroyed by fire. Under their homeowners’ insurance policy, the insureds were required to “submit to questions under oath and sign and swear to them.” Powell, 88 F.3d at 272. During the EUO, the insureds refused to answer several questions and “to turn over financial and other documents,” claiming that an EUO did not permit the insurer to “delve into financial or other information relating to the [insureds’] possible motives to intentionally set the fire … but … [was] instead limited … to an examination relating to the existence and extent of loss under the policy.” The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit disagreed, stating that an EUO “encompasses investigation into possible motives for suspected fraud.” Concluding that the EUO “is not restricted to amount of loss, but the insurer has the right to examine the insured and his witnesses as to any matter material to the insurer’s liability and the extent thereof.” Therefore, in Phillips v. Allstate Indemn. Co., 156 Md.App. 729, 848 A.2d 681 (2004) and Lindsey v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., Not Reported in F.Supp.2d, 2000 WL 1597763 (D.Md., 2000) under the facts and circumstances of the case, the refusal to answer questions about his financial circumstances during the EUO violated the terms of the policy and constituted a failure to cooperate.
In Michigan, in the context of a homeowner’s insurance policy, that the remedy for failing to comply with a requirement to submit to an EUO is dismissal of the insured’s action. Thomson v. State Farm Ins. Co., 232 Mich.App. 38, 45, 592 N.W.2d 82 (1998); Yeo v. State Farm Ins. Co., 219 Mich.App. 254, 257, 555 N.W.2d 893 (1996). The court saw no reason to distinguish between a valid EUO in a homeowner’s insurance policy and a valid EUO in a policy providing uninsured motorist benefits. An insurance policy is much the same as any other contract; it is an agreement between the parties. Because the no-fault statute does not require uninsured motorist benefits, there is no public policy against enforcing the EUO provision in this context, and we must honor the intent of the parties’ contract. [Cruz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 241 Mich.App. 159, 614 N.W.2d 689 (2000)].
The EUO Should Be Required by an Insurer:
■ When the insured has insufficient documentary evidence to prove his loss.
■ When the insured refuses to cooperate in the investigation of the insurer.
■ When the insured is unable to present documentary evidence in support of his or her claim.
■ When the Insured needs help proving his or her loss.
■ When the insurer has no other means of “cross examining” the proof of loss submitted by the insured.
■ When the insurer witnesses a fraudulent claim is being attempted.
The list of reasons for requiring an EUO are not the only reasons but a small list of potential reasons for an EUO.
When an insurance professional, whether an adjuster or a lawyer, finds a claim poses questions that cannot be answered by the usual and common methods of investigating a claim, it is important to consider the use of the EUO to get the answers not available anywhere else.
Now available as a Kindle book and a paperback at http://zalma.com/zalma-books/
© 2018 – Barry Zalma
This article, and all of the blog posts on this site, digest and summarize cases published by courts of the various states and the United States. The court decisions have been modified from the actual language of the court decisions, were condensed for ease of reading, and convey the opinions of the author regarding each case.
Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 50 years in the insurance business. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.
Books from Full Court Press
Full Court Press continues to publish expert secondary content. This time it’s a new collection of ew insurance law treatises from consultant, expert witness, arbitrator, and mediator Barry Zalma.
Barry Zalma practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims-handling lawyer, and has spent more than 50 years in the insurance business. We welcome his deskbooks as the first published under our Full Court Press imprint. Three titles are available in ePub and MOBI format, as well as on the Fastcase legal research platform.
Insurance Law Deskbook: Learn the insurance basics that are essential to every civil practitioner. The Insurance Law Deskbook is intended to help law students, practitioners, insurance lawyers, professional claims personnel, insured persons, and anyone else involved in insurance. The book, published for the first time under Full Court Press, includes the full texts or digests of insurance-related decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts of Appeal, state appellate courts, and foreign courts that have molded the American insurance law, as well as vital explanatory chapters, historical context, form letters, and more.
California Insurance Law Deskbook: California has long led the way when it comes to insurance jurisprudence in the United States, and few know more about California insurance law than Barry Zalma. The California Insurance Law Deskbook is intended to help law students, practitioners, insurance lawyers, professional claims personnel, insured persons, and anyone else involved in insurance. Similar to Barry Zalma’s general Insurance Law Deskbook, this title focuses on the state where the author has long resided and practiced as an expert in California law. The book, published for the first time under Full Court Press, includes the full texts or digests of insurance-related decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts of Appeal, and California appellate courts, as well as vital explanatory chapters and historical context.
Insurance Bad Faith and Punitive Damages Deskbook: Understand the relationship between insurance, the tort of bad faith, and why punitive damages are awarded to punish insurers. Previously, a person suing an insurance company in the United States could only recover contract damages, but when the tort of bad faith was created by the courts contract law was enormously affected, allowing insureds to sue insurers for both contract and tort damages, including punitive damages. Read a thoughtful analysis of how punitive damages apply in the United States to insurance bad faith suits, and why some states allow judges and juries to award punitive damages against insurers in civil litigation.
An annual subscription to secondary content on the Fastcase platform includes new editions and updates published by the author as they are rolled out, so you can rest assured that your research is up to date. Go to fastcase.com for more detail and how to use the material on-line as part of your legal or insurance research or as stand-alone e-books. Details on the three new e-books are available at https://www.fastcase.com/product-category/fcp/ Subscribers to fastcase.com can search the three books as they do case law.
An annual subscription to secondary content on the Fastcase platform includes new editions and updates published by the author as they are rolled out, so you can rest assured that your research is up to date. Go to fastcase.com for more detail and how to use the material on-line as part of your legal or insurance research or as stand-alone e-books.
Mr. Zalma’s books available as Kindle books or paperbacks at Amazon.com can be reached at http://zalma.com/zalma-books/
The author and publisher disclaim any liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this blog. The information provided is not a substitute for the advice of a competent insurance, legal, or other professional. The Information provided at this site should not be relied on as legal advice. Legal advice cannot be given without full consideration of all relevant information relating to an individual situation.