Man accused of killing officer in shootout sues insurance company
OGDEN — An Ogden man accused of killing a police officer and wounding five others is suing his insurance company for not paying for repairs to his home that was damaged during the shootout with police.
Matthew David Stewart, 38, has been charged with capital murder and seven counts of attempted aggravated murder, all first-degree felonies, for opening fire on a team of police officers who arrived at his home at 3268 Jackson Ave. on Jan. 4, 2012, to serve a search warrant. The officers, all members of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force, had been told the home's occupant had been growing marijuana inside.
At a hearing on the evidence last year, the surviving officers recounted arriving at the home, knocking and announcing their presence and entering their home, only to be met soon after with gunfire.
Ogden police officer Jared Francom was killed in the ensuing gun battle.
Officers later reported finding a marijuana grow in the basement of the home.
Stewart has told police that he thought his home was being invaded and said his military training "just kicked in," prompting him to shoot. His family has called the entire incident a "tragic misunderstanding" and believes he is being "made a scapegoat for violent mistakes and procedures of the police."
Stewart's attorney, Emily Swenson, said Stewart's Ogden home was returned to them in a forfeiture action and is currently still being held as evidence, but is expected to be released and turned over soon.
"We wanted to get the insurance company in there to get it all cleaned up so we can get it on the market or get someone in there," Swenson said.
But in a complaint filed against Farmers Insurance Group in 2nd District Court, Stewart alleges breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties and breach of covenant of good faith because Farmers Insurance offered to pay depreciated value and not the replacement costs, cost of loss of use or the cost of biohazard cleanup that Stewart has requested. The lawsuit said the insurance company initially indicated it would cover the cost of repairing the damage, but said biohazard cleanup would not be included.
Subsequently, it alleged, the company said there would be no coverage. Still, Farmers provided an estimate in terms of damage to the home at $8,411 and offered to pay $3,321, which was the cost of the damage minus the depreciated value.
"In other words, although Farmers offered a partial settlement it maintained that (Stewart) had no right to any amount under the insurance policy," the lawsuit states.
Farmers Insurance spokesman Mark Toohey said the incident is considered an intentional act and that claims resulting from intentional acts are not covered by the homeowners' insurance policy. He said this is standard in most policies, regardless of the insurance company.
The lawsuit describes an intentional act as an incident in which the claim holder directly causes or arranges for the loss to the property in order to obtain insurance benefits.
"What they're trying to claim is … that this was all done to get the insurance to come in and get (Stewart) new carpet and a new front door," Swenson said. "It's just silly. … Their argument flies in the face of reason."
Toohey said criminal acts can also fall under the intentional acts category. "Insurance covers a lot of things, but it does not cover intentional acts," he said.
Stewart had renewed the policy in May 2011, the lawsuit states, and it provided for coverage through May 2012.
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