Renters suffer mold damage; insurer mishandles claim. $100K. San Diego County.


Liberty Mutual denies claim, says damage was not caused by a specified peril.

The Case

  • Case Name: Berg v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.
  • Court and Case Number: San Diego County Superior Court / 37-2016-00044046-CU-IC-CTL
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, February 28, 2019
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, December 15, 2016
  • Type of Case: Insurance – Bad Faith, Claims Handling
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Eddie Sturgeon
  • Plaintiffs:
    Mike Berg
    Karen Doughty
  • Defendants:
    Liberty Insurance Corporation
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $100,000
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 9 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 day.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Motions for new trial, JNOV, and Offset denied by court. Pre-judgment interest, expert fees, costs, attorney fees awarded in the sum of $76,024.17

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    The Greenfield Law Firm by Kenneth N. Greenfield and Kate A. Evans, San Diego.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Selman Breitman LLP by Bridget Moorhead, San Diego.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Ian Spiszman, air quality testing, Glendale.

    Janice A. Ramsay, property insurance bad faith, Irvine.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiffs rented a house. They suffered damage to personal property from mold and moisture damage. The damage claim was initially denied by Liberty Mutual until plaintiff retained an attorney eight months later, when only $5,000 was paid by the insurer. The insurer was immediately sued for delay and failure to pay for the full loss.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the excessive moisture was from the leaking exhaust hose from the clothes dryer inside the house. This would have been a specified loss under the policy ("steam from within a household appliance").

    That defendant insurer acted in bad faith by denying the claim. 

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That the cause of excessive moisture in the home was improper drainage of water from the exterior. Such cause was excluded from coverage under the policy.  

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Over $100,000 in damaged clothing and other personal property.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $99,998
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $5,000