Walnut Creek v. Depositors Ins. Co involved a disputed hail claim to a 36 building homeowner’s association. The Association suffered hail damage to the buildings, but the insurance company denied that any loss had occurred. The Association demanded an appraisal to resolve the dispute. At the appraisal hearing, the panel disagreed with the insurance company and found that the buildings were damaged by hail in the amount of $1.5 million. The insurance company refused to pay the award, and the matter went to trial. At trial, all of the same experts, contractors, and parties who were at the appraisal also testified at court. Even though the court heard the same evidence as the panel, it did so without the benefit of the panel’s expertise and without being on site to visually see the hail damage. The trial court erroneously set aside the appraisal panel’s award and held there was no hail damage at the buildings.
RSJ appealed and argued that the appraisal panel’s award was binding and the trial court erred by setting it aside. The Iowa Court of appeals agreed with RSJ and reversed the trial court’s decision. The Court of Appeals held that the panel’s award was binding on the lower court and that the Association is entitled to payment on the appraisal award.
This is yet another in a series of cases where RSJ took the lead in developing case law involving property insurance claims. This case sets new precedent and confirms that Iowa homeowners who win an insurance appraisal will be entitled to payment on the appraisal award without the risk of having the entire dispute retried a second time in court.