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Insurance company wins in civil ruling

Complaint was response to lawsuit about homeowner's policy not covering 2007 injury

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

HARRISONBURG -- A U.S. District Court judge has ruled against an Edinburg father and daughter in a civil case filed by the father's insurance company.

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

The civil case was in response to a $5 million lawsuit 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 lawsuit says that the claim wasn't filed in a timely manner, and the circumstances surrounding Valerie Keller's injury weren't covered by her father's insurance.

She was hurt on Sept. 15, 2007, according to online court records. A brief filed by Valerie Keller's attorney says that she notified the insurance company of the accident on May 9, 2008.

It says State Farm waited 278 days -- rather than the required 45 days -- to notify her that her father had breached his policy by not reporting the accident in time.

In its own brief, State Farm says that it didn't know of this breach until Jan. 30, 2009, and advised Valerie Keller of it in a Feb. 10, 2009 letter.

"State Farm submits that it would not be unreasonable or unbelievable for them to have concluded that Valerie was reporting a recent event, not one that had occurred some eight months earlier," it says. "The statute requires notice be given upon the 'discovery' of the breach."

In a memorandum opinion dated May 6, U.S. District Judge Samuel G. Wilson sides with State Farm in finding the company gave proper notice of the breach. That finding was in line with a jury's verdict from April.

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