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Jhourro v. American Family Insurance

May 4, 2004

LYNDA STE. JHOURRO, APPELLANT,
v.
AMERICAN FAMILY INSURANCE, RESPONDENT. QUINLIVAN & HUGHES, P.A., DEFENDANT.



Hennepin County District Court File No. CT 02-011638

Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge, and Minge, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Appellant argues that the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of respondent on her claims of intentional misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, and negligent misrepresentation. Because there are genuine issues of material fact as to the promissory estoppel claim and the intentional misrepresentation claim and Cohen II provides a basis for applying promissory estoppel, we reverse and remand. Because respondent insurance company did not have a duty to appellant on the negligence claim, we affirm.

FACTS

Appellant Lynda Ste. Jhourré claims that respondent American Family Insurance (AFI) is liable for damages she sustained when AFI breached its promise that it would keep confidential Ste. Jhourré's tip regarding her neighbors' insurance fraud.

Ste. Jhourré was a neighbor of Kent and Deborah Jones in Big Lake. In the spring of 1996, the Joneses stored personal property in a storage facility while they built a new home. The facility caught fire and destroyed all items inside.

The Joneses decided to file a claim for the property damage with their insurer, AFI, and decided to list as property destroyed in the fire items that actually were not stored in the facility. To corroborate their claim, the Joneses asked Ste. Jhourré to tell the insurer that she had helped move the property into storage.

In late July 1996, Ste. Jhourré telephoned AFI to report the Joneses' insurance fraud. She spoke with Susan Brichacek, an AFI employee, who had some experience with receiving an insurance fraud tip. Ste. Jhourré stated that she had information about insurance fraud and Brichacek replied that she was the AFI person who could take the information. Before revealing anything, Ste. Jhourré said that AFI had to promise not to reveal either the content of the tip or even the fact that a tip had been made. She stated that she feared for her life if the Joneses found out that a tip had been given. Ste. Jhourré claims that Brichacek promised not to reveal the tip, and Ste. Jhourré then told her of the Joneses' scheme to defraud AFI. Ste. Jhourré did not give her name or telephone number. A few days later, Ste. Jhourré again telephoned Brichacek to emphasize the critical importance of keeping the tip confidential. At this time, Ste. Jhourré identified herself.

Immediately after Ste. Jhourré's first telephone call, Brichacek sent an e-mail message to AFI's St. Cloud office, but she did not mention anything about confidentiality. That office forwarded the tip to one of AFI's special investigators, who later told the Joneses' insurance agent about the tip.

The Joneses had made a $114,328 claim. The special investigator interviewed them regarding the basis for the claim. The investigator did not mention the tip. After the interview, the Joneses called their agent to complain that AFI was investigating their claim. Then the agent told them that AFI had received an anonymous tip that the claim was fraudulent. The Joneses told the agent that they might know who the tipster was.

Kent Jones then left a voice message for Ste. Jhourré saying that he knew she had made the tip to AFI. In a later call to Ste. Jhourré, Deborah Jones said that she and her husband were going to come after her until the day she died.

AFI denied the Joneses' claim, and they sued their insurer. While the lawsuit was pending, an AFI investigator learned from Ste. Jhourré that she was the tipster, and Ste. Jhourré agreed to have her deposition taken. Kent Jones attended the ...


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