Rescission Is a Remedy That Must be Used Cautiously
Insurers must use the rescission remedy with care. Insurers should never assume that the promise to pay indemnity to the insured under a policy of insurance can, with impunity, be broken by advising the insured that the insurer has rescinded the policy.
Rescission without sufficient evidence is wrongful. Rescission without the advice of competent counsel is a tactic fraught with peril. Rescission without a thorough investigation is dangerous. Where no valid ground for rescission exists, the threat or attempt to seek such relief may constitute a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing which is implied in the policy and expose the insurer to tort damages for that breach, including punitive damages.
One plaintiffs’ lawyer became wealthy when he learned that claims people were given a rubber stamp that said “RESCISSION” and had no idea what it was, what was needed to prove rescission and even how to spell “rescission” jurors were angered and punished the insurer.
The policyholder’s lawyer would take the claims person’s deposition and ask them to spell the word. When the claims person failed his bad faith case was established. When they spelled the word correctly, he would ask the adjuster to state the elements necessary to effect a rescission. Almost none could answer appropriately.
California, with a Draconian rescission law, still makes it clear that if an insurer elects rescission without sufficient evidence it will bring the wrath of the courts down on it. A failure of evidence will be the basis for allegations, easily proven, of extra-contractual torts.
If sufficient evidence exists, the rescission remedy will deprive the insured or the insurer of all rights under the policy. The court will conclude that the contract never existed and neither party has any right under the contract.
© 2020 – Barry Zalma
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 52 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.
Over the last 52 years Barry Zalma has dedicated his life to insurance, insurance claims and the need to defeat insurance fraud. He has created the following library of books and other materials to make it possible for insurers and their claims staff to become insurance claims professionals.
Read posts from Barry Zalma at https://parler.com/profile/Zalma/posts