Insurance Company Need Not Prove Prejudice to its Investigation or Unfair Advantage to Insured to Rely Upon Judicial Estoppel

This was an action to recover under a policy of fire insurance. The fire was the result of arson. The claim was denied on several grounds, including arson. When the insured filed suit, the insurance companies moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the insured failed to disclose his ownership and interest in the home in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. On appeal, the insured contended that the insurers could not rely upon the judicial estoppel doctrine because neither was prejudiced by the flawed bankruptcy. Similarly, the insured contended that summary judgment was inappropriate because he did not receive any unfair advantage in his insurance claims by virtue of his flawed bankruptcy. The Court rejected both assertions. The judicial estoppel doctrine was designed to protect the integrity of the courts – in this case, the integrity of the bankruptcy court’s ruling. In the Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the insured was relieved of thousands of dollars in unsecured debt by failing to disclose his interest in the insured home. As a consequence, prejudice to the insurers or unfair advantage in the insurance claim were inapposite.

Battle v. Georgia Underwriting Association and Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 276 Ga. App. 434 (2005)

Counsel for Defendant Georgia Underwriting Association: Tom Martin


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