Guest Opinion: Blobaum Enterprises, LLC v. Auto-Owners

Posted on Feb 21, 2014

What do you do when the insurance company asks for a sworn statement concerning a property loss, but criminal charges are either pending, contemplated or in-the-works? This appears to a question being addressed in Blobaum Enterprises, LLC vs Auto-Owners. I asked a fellow lawyer to outline the issues and the ruling. But, before he was able to complete the task the opinion was unpublished. 

Blobaum Enterprises, LLC v. Auto-Owners. It's a Polk County case. The insurer was granted summary judgment on the grounds the insured failed to perform a condition precedent. My opinion, without knowing the specific facts would be to rule that once proper notice of a claim was given the insurer, if there was a question that the loss was the result of "suspicious activity" and if a formal criminal investigation was pending, then the insured right against self-incrimination would trump the requirement to give a sworn statement. Coverage could be conditionally denied pending the results of any criminal investigation/prosecution, the insurer would be free to investigate the claim, without the sworn statement, but coverage could not be finally denied. The claim could be put in abeyance. If a conviction or plea occurs the coverage could be denied. At least, a person's right against self-incrimination would be preserved. The insured could always give the sworn statement if they chose to. I believe this is different than an employment situation because you are paying for the coverage. When you are on the job, you are being paid for services rendered and you are employed at will (in most cases). I see a difference.

It appears this opinion was published and then withdrawn for reconsideration. We look forward to reading the final opinion of the Court.

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Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death