1. State Farm Mutual Ins. Co. refused to pay a north central Iowa farmer’s claim for the death of a large number of near-market weight swine. The animals died during a blizzard when a mechanical failure, combined with an interruption in electrical service, shut off ventilation to a hog building, caused temperatures to escalate rapidly and resulted in death for the animals.
2. State Farm took the position the animals died of suffocation. Swine suffocation exclusions in insurance policies were commonplace years ago, when swine operations were small, and hogs would, at times, bunch up atop one another and smother those at the bottom of the pile.
3. But death by this smothering process is extremely rare, now. Only State Farm’s policy is aged.
4. In Domina Law Group pc llo’s Client’s case, the evidence educed by Lawyers David Domina and Terry White created a basis upon which the Jury, at trial, could conclude that death occurred due to elevated temperature, not swine suffocation.
5. In the District Court, Domina Law Group pc llo contended this evidence was sufficient to defeat the insurance company’s summary judgment motion. But, the trial judge disagreed, granted summary judgment, and an appeal became necessary.
6. On appeal, Terry White, and David Domina argued for the producer that genuine issues of material fact required presentation to the Jury. They claimed that expert testimony from a swine scientist established proof that heat, not suffocation, was the cause of death.
7. The Iowa Court of Appeals agreed. On May 27, 2009, the appellate tribunal issued its opinion reversing the District Court, remanding the case for trial, and requiring the Jury decide whether death was caused by events or circumstances compensable within the terms of State Farm’s policy.
8. “We are delighted to have a chance to try our Client’s case to a Jury,” Terry White said. “The opinion recognizes the force and impact of our expert evidence in the lower court. We think a Jury will understand and appreciate that evidence, too.”
Domina Law Group pc llo is a firm of trial lawyers. We specialize in complex litigation on a national basis. Our lawyers are ethical, aggressive, and committed to providing spirit and vitality to the judicial system and our client’s legal rights.