Masood v. Safeco Ins. Co. of OregonAnnotate this Case
Plaintiff purchased an insurance policy from defendant that provided coverage for his house, other structures on his property, personal property, and loss of use for up to 12 months. The policy also included “extended dwelling coverage,” which provided additional coverage of 50 percent to
pay for unexpected repair or rebuilding costs that exceeded the base amount of coverage for the house. A fire completely destroyed plaintiff’s house and its contents and damaged other structures on the property. Plaintiff and defendant disagreed about what was owed under the policy. In particular, the parties disagreed about whether plaintiff was entitled to the extended dwelling coverage without having to first actually replace the house. After a lengthy and complicated trial, the jury returned a special verdict finding for plaintiff on his breach of contract claim and assessing damages in the amount of the limits of the extended dwelling coverage. The jury also found for defendant on the counterclaim, however. The trial court declined to enter a judgment awarding plaintiff any damages. The court concluded that, in light of the jury’s findings on the counterclaim, the insurance policy had been voided, and as a result, it was defendant who was entitled to a judgment for all payments that it had made under the policy up to that time. Plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court had erred in even sending the counterclaim to the jury because there was no evidence that defendant had reasonably relied on any misrepresentations by plaintiff. Defendant petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court, which ultimately denied defendant’s petition. Plaintiff sought an award of $30,771 in attorney fees incurred before the Supreme Court, contending that, given the Court of Appeals’ decision, he was the prevailing party on appeal and was entitled to fees. The Supreme Court concluded that plaintiff’s action was “upon [a] policy of insurance” within the meaning of ORS 742.061(1), and therefore did not address whether defendant was correct about the insufficiency of plaintiff’s “alternative” theory of recovery under the statute, based on his defeat of the counterclaim. Defendant advanced no other objection to the requested award of fees. The petition for attorney fees was allowed.