Filed Under:Claims, Litigation

Jury Orders State Farm to Pay Contractor $14.5M for Defamation

NU Online News Service, July 5, 2:31 p.m. EDT

State Farm says it will “weigh its options” after an Indiana jury awarded $14.5 million to a contractor in Indiana who sued the insurer for defamation.

Joseph Radcliff, owner of CPM Construction, was originally sued by State Farm for insurance fraud and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

State Farm alleged Radcliff defrauded the company of $1.75 million after hail storms in 2006. The contractor intentionally damaged roofs to increase insurance payouts, it was alleged.

Radcliff was arrested in September 2008 and charged with 14 counts of fraud, corruption and criminal mischief. He allegedly duped hundreds of homeowners, reports said.

The charges were eventually dismissed by the Marion County Prosecutor, but the “negative publicity resulted in Radcliff’s personal reputation and business being destroyed,” says a statement from Price Waicukauski & Riley, which represented Radcliff.

An Internet search of Radcliff’s name brings up a handful of news reports of his arrest, as well as consumer sites warning homeowners of Radcliff’s business.

Radcliff’s lawyers say State Farm made the alleged unfounded claims and “instigated” the filing of felony charges against Radcliff after the insurer “received negative publicity in the Indianapolis media for denying hail-damage claims.”

State Farm stands behind its case.

“We believed the evidence supported the actions we took and the causes of action we filed,” State Farm says in an email. “State Farm does not believe the verdict is supported by facts or the law.”

Radcliff says he is “grateful to those who believed in me and helped me get the true facts before the jury and to the jury for giving me—and my failed company—justice.”  

State Farm is the largest writer of personal-property insurance in Indiana, with a 28.5 percent market share, according to Highline Data—a part of Summit Business Media, which also owns National Underwriter.

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