False marijuana claim could constitute bad faith insurance

Insurance companies are supposed to provide protection during and after difficult events. Whether a car accident causes severe damage or a fire destroys a home, people in West Virginia rely on these companies to take care of their needs. When an insurance company fails to provide its obligated coverage or acts in a manner that might fall outside of its policies, it might be considered a bad faith insurance situation.

An out-of-state couple recently filed suit against Nationwide Insurance Co., claiming that an insurance agent had them wrongfully arrested. On Oct. 5, 2017, an insurance agent was investigating the elderly couple's claim that a tree from their neighbor's property had fallen onto their own. While there, the agent photographed hibiscus plants on the couple's property and sent them to the police, and claimed that the 66-year-old woman and 69-year-old man were running a growing operation for marijuana.

According to their lawsuit, police showed up to the home unexpectedly, insisted they had a search warrant but did not show proof, and then forced the woman to stand outside without pants or shoes for at least 10 minutes. She was also handcuffed, and made to walk barefoot across a gravel driveway before being placed in the hot backseat of a police vehicle, where she remained for nearly five hours. Her husband was also handcuffed and put in the vehicle some 30 minutes after the police arrived. Although she told police the plants were only hibiscus, the attending police sergeant insisted that he was an expert and that the plants were absolutely marijuana. It was later discovered that the flowering plants were indeed harmless hibiscus plants.

Although eventually cleared of all allegations, the couple received a letter from Nationwide that same month, threatening to discontinue their policy if the non-existent marijuana plants were not immediately removed. It is not clear if they are still insured through Nationwide as they pursue their lawsuit. Since insurance policies are essential for most people in West Virginia, bad faith insurance can have devastating financial and emotional consequences. A carefully pursued legal claim can help recover compensation for ongoing and related damages.

Source: photographyisnotacrime.com, "Pennsylvania Cops Terrorize Elderly Couple After Confusing Hibiscus Plants for Marijuana", Carlos Miller, Nov. 17, 2017

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