Wednesday, December 18, 2013

First State Bank of Denton v. Maryland Casualty Co. case brief

First State Bank of Denton v. Maryland Casualty Co. case brief summary
918 F.2d 38 (5th Cir. 1990)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Plaintiff insured's executor appealed from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas that denied coverage under a policy with defendant insurer for a home fire. Plaintiff also challenged the adverse ruling on the motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

CASE FACTS
Plaintiff insured's executor sought to recover under a homeowner's insurance policy after the insured's home was destroyed in a fire. The jury found in favor of defendant insurer, and the district court denied the plaintiff's motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV).

DISCUSSION

  • On appeal, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting into evidence the phone call made by the police to the insured's home during the fire. 
  • The dispatcher's testimony that she dialed the correct number and that the person who answered the phone announced the right family name constituted sufficient authentication to make a prima facie case for the jury to decide the identity of the person who answered the phone. 
  • The court also found that the statement during the phone call that the insured was not home was admissible hearsay under Fed. R. Evid. 803(1) and Fed. R. Evid. 803(24). 
  • With regard to the denial of the plaintiff's motion for a JNOV, the court found that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict. 
  • The insurer offered proof required under Texas law of motive and of the incendiary origin of the fire. 
  • The court affirmed the judgment.

CONCLUSION
The court affirmed the judgment denying insurance benefits to plaintiff insured's executor under a homeowner's policy with defendant insured because a phone call from the police to the insured's home was properly admitted into evidence. The court also upheld the adverse ruling on the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, as there was sufficient evidence of motive and of incendiary origin of the fire to support the verdict.


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