Auto-Owners v. Summit Park, 886 F.3d 852 and 886 F.3d 863 (10th Cir. 2018)
IADC member Evan Stephenson, a partner at Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell LLP (WTO), along with three other WTO partners, won a complete victory on appeal in the Tenth Circuit for Auto-Owners Insurance Company. In two published opinions, the Tenth Circuit affirmed in toto several orders WTO had won in the trial court. As a result of the orders, Auto-Owners had recovered nearly $11 million paid towards an improper appraisal award, obtained sanctions against the policyholder and its counsel, and received an award of over $300,000 in attorney fees against the opposing lawyers.
The policyholder, which is a homeowner’s association, and its lawyers filed two separate appeals to overturn the sanctions orders. The Tenth Circuit rejected their arguments, holding that (i) the association was obligated to comply with the trial court’s orders, (ii) the trial court did not err in vacating the eight-figure appraisal award, and (iii) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sanctioning the association and its lawyers. The Tenth Circuit ruled specifically that the opposing lawyers had made false representations, had failed to correct false testimony, and that the trial court had reasonably concluded that the association had acted in bad faith in appointing a biased appraiser.