Once in a while, you hear about a multi-million dollar insurance claim being filed when something expensive has been damaged or lost. Like when a seaside mansion is destroyed by a hurricane. Or when valuable jewelry has been stolen from a retailer. Or when rare paintings were damaged by a museum fire. But a $2 million auto insurance claim? That’s unheard of … right?
Well, it’s happening right now in Texas — and it could just be the biggest claim of its kind in history.
A few years ago, Andy House purchased a 2006 Bugatti Veyron, one of the world’s most expensive automobiles, for $1.05 million. House subsequently purchased an insurance policy from Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company (PHLY) for $2.2 million. (It is not unusual for rare collectable vehicles to be insured at “market value” above the owner’s purchase price.) Then, in November 2009, House managed to drive the Veyron into a swamp outside Galveston, Texas, and proceeded to file a claim. House claims that he swerved to avoid a pelican and accidentally crashed the car.
Naturally, PHLY is skeptical about the circumstances surrounding the incident. The company is disputing the claim, arguing that House drove the Veyron into the swamp intentionally. As proof, it cites the lack of skid marks on the roadway and the fact that House left the ignition running while the car was submerged (which ruined the engine after it ingested water). PHLY also maintains that House exceeded the mileage restrictions on the exotic car’s policy, which voided the coverage.
Astoundingly, the incident was captured on video by a passerby. Watch and decide for yourself who is correct. (Caution: salty language)
The disagreement has made its way into the court system. PHLY filed a motion for summary judgment, which is a request that the issue be ruled upon by a judge before formal trial proceedings get underway. Such a motion is usually filed when one side believes that the case has no merit or is clearly covered by existing laws. However, a U.S. District Court judge refused to grant the motion, saying that there were “quizzical factual circumstances” which needed to be decided by a jury.
So the case appears to be headed to trial. It is entirely possible that the two sides could reach a settlement prior to the start of (or even during) court proceedings. But if that doesn’t happen, a handful of ordinary citizens will have to figure out whether or not an insurance company will make history by shelling out over $2 million — for a car.