Steven G. Wraith and Donna M. Young prevailed on a summary judgment motion in Insured v. Engineering Firm in King County Superior Court. The court dismissed all claims alleging that an engineering firm was acting as an unlicensed insurance adjuster. The plaintiffs, insureds under a homeowners’ policy, filed a bad faith claim against their property insurer because it had not paid them for all the home renovation costs after a water loss claim. The insurance adjuster retained an engineering firm to review the invoices submitted by the insured’s contractor, billed on a time and materials basis, to determine which charges were related to the water loss. The engineering firm separated the charges into categories of related and unsubstantiated. The insureds claimed that the engineering firm was acting as an unlicensed adjuster when it performed this consulting work. Based on the definition in RCW 48.17.010, the insureds argued that “adjuster” includes anyone who provided an opinion on an insurance claim for compensation. Donna argued that the insured’s interpretation was overly broad, and inconsistent with historical practices wherein insurers routinely retain consultants to provide opinions on technical non-coverage issues that arise during the adjustment of a claim. Washington’s Office of the Insurance Commissioner has authored language to clarify RCW 48.17.010 to eliminate the overly broad interpretation of the statute being advocated by plaintiffs’ counsel, but this has not yet been enacted into law. The court agreed that such consultants hired by insurance adjusters were not preforming insurance adjuster services, and could not be liable for bad faith or for providing adjusting services without a license.
Mar 22, 2021