An insurance company is asking the Iowa Supreme Court to reverse a jury verdict that awarded $96,000 to the owners of Luigi’s Restaurant and Lounge.
United Fire and Casualty filed a notice of appeal to the high court on Sept. 27, after District Court Judge John Bauercamper on Sept. 11 denied the company’s motions for him to overrule the jury verdict or grant a new trial.
A Fayette County jury in July returned a verdict in favor of Luigi’s for $88,989.25 plus interest in actual damages and $30,000 plus interest in punitive damages. Twenty-five percent of the punitive damages are to be paid to Luigi’s and 75% to the Civil Reparations Trust Fund.
Court costs were also assessed to the defendant.
Luigi’s Inc., owned by the Stasi family, filed its lawsuit against United Fire and Casualty Company in March of 2018.
“Our attorney told us to be ready for an appeal, so it was not unexpected,” said Marty Stasi. “I would really rather not comment beyond that at this time.”
The lawsuit said the insurer sold Luigi’s a policy that included building loss coverage of $550,000. Luigi’s Restaurant was destroyed by a fire on Nov. 12, 2016, and on Dec. 13, 2016, United Fire offered Luigi’s around $240,000 for the total loss suffered under the building portion of the coverage. Luigi’s lawsuit called that a “lowball offer.”
Luigi’s also turned down an arbitration award of $502,000 offered in June 2017.
The jury agreed with Luigi’s contention that United Fire and Casualty Company breached a contract and acted in bad faith.
United Fire and Casualty, in its answer to the lawsuit, said the restaurant’s insurance agent was informed in the summer of 2016 that policy changes were needed “because of Luigi’s loss history.” One change was that the building had been insured with “Replacement Cost coverage,” but the new policy “would only provide coverage for Actual Cash Value.”