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Judge to decide case over farm equipment injury

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Jury says insurance claim wasn't filed in a timely manner; Edinburg family given opportunity to dispute

By Sally Voth - svoth@nvdaily.com

HARRISONBURG -- A jury trial was held earlier this month in a case involving an Edinburg family, but the judge will have the final say in the matter.

State Farm Fire and Casualty Insurance filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in U.S. District Court last fall against Valerie Keller, of 111 Hidden Acres Drive, Edinburg, and her father, George Keller, of 288 Hidden Acres Drive.

The company was acting in response to a $5 million suit Valerie Keller filed against her father in Shenandoah County Circuit Court. He had a homeowner's policy with State Farm.

Valerie Keller was injured after her legs became caught in the drive shaft of an auger her father was using to drill post holes, according to online court records. The auger was attached to a tractor.

State Farm's complaint says that it shouldn't have to pay the claim because it wasn't filed shortly after the accident as required, George Keller made payments to his daughter, and the accident happened during a business pursuit and while a motor vehicle was being used, which were excluded from the policy.

The case went to a jury, which on April 14 said that State Farm proved that the claim wasn't filed in a timely manner, but didn't prove that Valerie Keller was living at her parents' home at the time, according to court records.

On April 15, U.S. District Judge Samuel G. Wilson issued an order giving the Kellers seven days to explain why he should grant their motion for judgment as a matter of law. They said state code prevents State Farm from saying they didn't file a timely notice of the accident, the order says.

"The court took the matter under advisement, and allowed the plaintiff to submit this claim to the jury," the order says.

State Farm will then have seven days after the Kellers' brief to file a responding brief, it says.

The Kellers' motion came after State Farm closed its case before the jury.

"There's still issues to be resolved in the case ... nothing's been finalized yet," Bradley J. Moyers, George Keller's attorney, said on Monday. "There's a legal issue outstanding that's very pertinent to the case. It will be a couple of weeks before we know anything."
One of the unanswered questions involves the notice given to State Farm and whether the company complied with the contract, he said.

"Until the judge rules, we won't know how the case is going to turn out," Moyers said. "The judge's ruling is not necessarily dependent on what the jury did."

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