Yesterday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon granted MLR’s motion for summary judgment granted MLR’s motion for summary judgment to dismiss counterclaims for defamation and tortious interference brought by a chiropractic clinic and its owners/employees (“the clinic”) against several Farmers-related entities. The Farmers entities filed the lawsuit against the clinic for fraud and RICO violations, and the clinic counterclaimed for breach of contract, defamation, and tortious interference. The case is captioned Farmers Ins. Exch., et al. v. First Choice Chiropractic & Rehabilitation, Case No. 13-cv-01883-PK.
The clinic’s tort claims for defamation and tortious interference were based on, primarily, three letters the insurance company sent to its insureds during the fraud investigation. In the letters, the insurance company notified insureds that their claims for personal injury protection (PIP) coverage were under investigation, and the insurer reserved its rights to deny coverage based on, among other things, fraud. The clinic asserted the letters were defamatory, but the district court disagreed.
MLR attorneys, FJ Maloney and Janis Puracal, argued the letters were true and could not, therefore, be defamatory as a matter of law. The evidence on summary judgment proved that the insurance company was, in fact, investigating the PIP claims and had reserved its rights when it sent the letters. The court agreed and dismissed the claims for defamation and tortious interference as a matter of law. The court wrote, “It goes against logic to argue that Farmers did not conduct investigations of files for which it ultimately filed suit.” The case continues against the clinic, but the clinic’s tort counterclaims were dismissed in their entirety.
The attorneys of MLR regularly represent clients in insurance litigation that includes allegations of RICO violations and fraud. Please contact us with any questions about this opinion or any other matter you see addressed in the MLR Insurance Coverage Blog.
A complete copy of the court’s opinion is available here.