Dismissal of Claims Against Fire Expert Client
Secured dismissal of abuse of process and malicious prosecution claims against our client, a fire origin and cause expert who had been retained by an insurance company to investigate a house fire. Based on the expert’s opinion that the fire was intentionally set, the insurer filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a determination of no insurance coverage. A jury found against the insurer and in favor of the homeowner. Subsequently, the homeowner filed suit against the insurer and expert for actual and punitive damages, alleging the expert “instigated” the declaratory judgment action by providing false information because he did not follow the proper scientific methodology contained in NFPA 921. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri granted the motion to dismiss all claims against the expert based on its finding that the expert did not instigate the declaratory judgment action, the declaratory judgment action presented an actual case or controversy, and the expert’s opinion met the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 702 and NFPA 921.