Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Review of Fidelity National Title Insurance Company and the Covenant of Good Faith

Fidelity National Title Insurance Company may breach the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, commonly referred to as acting in "bad faith," when they unreasonably  or willfully deny benefits under an existing and enforceable insurance policy on a valid claim.

This is the most frequent question that I get on this blog.  Although others have shared their stories I feel I can only comment on my own experience as a claimant with Fidelity National Title and did I feel that they did not protect by interest in my real estate investment and I feel that Fidelity acted in bad faith.  This is my opinion but I have provided what I feel is evidence of this fact in multiple posts on this blog.

1.  Did Fidelity National Title Insurance Company refuse to pay a valid insurance claim?  My claim was opened by a Fidelity Title Officer on my behalf so there was never a question that my claim was valid but in order to not pay the claim which in my estimation was in excess of $700,000 Fidelity National Title Insurance Company hired an appraiser from Boise Idaho to determine the value of the loss of a mile long access easement to my property in the Napa Valley of California.  He determined that the value of this easement was $0.  I consider this a refusal to pay.  After filing a lawsuit Fidelity did pay for about a tenth of the loss - as I could not afford to continue fighting them to get Fidelity to do the right thing.

2.  Did Fidelity National Title Insurance Company refuse to pay the full value of your claim under the insurance policy?  Yes in my opinion I believe they refused to pay the full value of the claim.  I have an evaluation of value that shows that they refused to pay the full value of the claim.  This document was given to the Fidelity National Title Insurance Company's in house attorneys and they communicated that Fidelity would not pay more than a tenth the value of the loss without my pursuing them with a full blown trial which they knew I could not afford.

3. Did Fidelity National Title Insurance Company take too long to pay or deny your insurance claim?  I worked diligently for years to get Fidelity National Title Insurance Company to pay my insurance claim.  Instead of paying the claim they bounced me from the Walnut Creek office to the Chicago office and finally to Omaha Nebraska where I had multiple Claims Counsels.  The second appraisal was only done in response to my contacting the California Department of Insurance.

4.  Did Fidelity National Title Insurance Company refuse to provide an attorney to defend you or your property rights?  Although it was during the claims process determined that the easement was valid no attempt was ever made to defend my rights to this easement by Fidelity National Title Insurance Company.

5.  Did Fidelity National Title Insurance Company fail to timely, thoroughly, objectively and fairly investigate your insurance claim?  "Insurance companies are supposed to be on your side when you file a claim.  Generally, the insurance company is supposed to look for insurance coverage - not ways to deny your claim.  The claim process is not supposed to be adversarial.  The insurance company is not suppose to put its interests above yours."  Fidelity National Title Insurance Company and the Claims Counsels who were assigned to my claim were in my opinion NEVER on my side.  They did not look for insurance coverage.  Instead as it has been documented previously in this blog all that the did especially in the hiring of an appraiser from out of the area they actively looked for ways to not pay the claim.  I believe it was obvious that their job was to protect the bottom line profits of Fidelity National Title and not to protect my interest in my real estate.

The bottom line is do I feel that Fidelity National Title acted in bad faith in the handling of my claim??  Absolutely.  I believe that the evidence that I found just days before the Settlement Conference of bad faith is the only reason that they did raise their settlement offer by $25,000.  My only regret is having accepted the settlement and not having the time, energy and money to continue the battle so that they not only had to pay for my loss but they also would have had to pay for the hundreds of hours I spent trying to get them to honor my insurance policy and pay the valid claim.  And I feel that if they would have been found guilty of acting in bad faith that this would have been a great win for consumers.

As I knew that I could not continue on the battle the only requirement I really had in the Settlement Agreement was that there was no clause that prevented my from blogging and expressing my opinions about Fidelity National Title and what I feel was definitely an unfair handling of my valid title insurance claim.

So would I ever use Fidelity National Title Insurance Company to insure real estate??  Absolutely and unequivocally not.