Matthew Ponzi and John Eggum Achieve Defense Verdict in $20 Million Fire-Related Settlement Suit

Foran Glennon shareholders Matthew Ponzi and John Eggum achieved a complete defense verdict for the firm’s insurer client in a case tried before the Honorable Christina A. Snyder in the United Stated District Court for the Central District of California. After a two-week trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of the insurer, completely rejecting the policyholder’s asserted entitlement to more than $20 million relating to the 2017 Thomas Fire in California. This also amounted to a rejection of the assertion that the denial of the claim was in bad faith. Matthew Ponzi was lead counsel for Foran Glennon, and the case was tried along with co-counsel from O’Melveny & Myers.

The policyholder claimed her Montecito California estate was a constructive total loss from purported differential settlement caused by a combination of the Thomas Fire and subsequent heavy rainfall in late 2017 and early 2018. The policyholder asserted the 9,000 square foot mansion, which overlooked the Pacific Ocean, was essentially unrepairable due to soils-related settlement in one corner of the home. She tore the home down following the purported settlement, presenting the jury with a narrative that the tear-down was necessitated by repairability and life safety concerns that would be present if there was a seismic event. 

Foran Glennon’s client presented evidence that the policyholder desired a tear-down before the loss event and knew of serious seismic risk pre-dating the Thomas Fire. After hearing both lay witness testimony and complex analysis from geotechnical engineers, structural engineers and an engineering geologist, the jury ultimately agreed that the policyholder had failed to prove that the Thomas Fire and subsequent rains caused the settlement she alleged had occurred. She recovered nothing.

Matt concentrates his practice in insurance coverage and commercial litigation, specifically in the analysis and litigation of commercial property, liability and reinsurance claims. Clients trust his extensive trial experience at both the federal and state level when faced with challenging litigation matters.

John litigates property insurance claims (including builder’s risk and energy claims) around the country, including in lawsuits where bad faith and claim handling disputes are at issue. In jury trials, bench decisions and other aspects of property litigation, he has established a strong track record of success for insurers facing significant contractual and extracontractual exposure.  Additionally, he is a frequent speaker at insurance industry events, including on topics of, property loss causation, delay-in-startup measurement in the builder’s risk context, appraisal and claim handling practices. He’s been recognized by various organizations for his work and leadership in the legal and insurance industries, including by The American Lawyer, which named him a Midwest Trailblazer, the Illinois Association of Defense Trial Lawyers, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and Chicago Lawyer, Super Lawyers and Leading Lawyers.

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