Commercial Litigation - Deutsch Kerrigan Client v. Natalie Koenenn et al
Mr. Vaughn obtained a summary judgment for his client, a regional bank with over $20 billion in assets, which was being sued and faced possible punitive damages and attorneys' fees. The suit arose after the bank required a business owner to pledge excess collateral, a house trailer, to secure her business loan for a gas station/convenience store in Kiln, Mississippi, and to keep both the store and the trailer properly insured. When the plaintiff business owner failed to renew her home insurance on the house trailer, the bank exercised its right to obtain force-placed insurance on the trailer, but mistakenly took out a policy for the full amount of the business loan rather than the value of the collateral - a difference of several hundred thousand dollars. There was a fire at the trailer, resulting in a total loss. The adjuster and bank agreed to reform the policy to the actual cash value of the trailer and to adjust the premiums, giving credit to the customer’s account for the excess premiums previously assessed, and then applying the cash value of the loss to the loan balance. When the customer found out what had happened, she threatened to sue under Mississippi's valued policy statute for the full amount of the face value of the force-placed insurance policy. Instead, Mr. Vaughn filed a declaratory judgment action in chancery court, seeking reformation of the contract and court approval of the actions taken. As expected, the customer counterclaimed, suing the bank for a breach of its fiduciary duty of good faith and fair dealing in agreeing to reduce the policy after the fact and suing the insurer for bad faith. Punitive damages were demanded from both parties; however, the court sided with the defendant bank.