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Appeals Court Rules For Indiana Roofer In State's Biggest-ever Defamation Suit

National Zoo

The State Court of Appeals upheld the Indiana‘s largest ever defamation award, overturning a second appeal by State Farm Insurance.

State Farm has already paid a judgment to roofing contractor Joseph Radcliffe. Courts had previously ruled that State Farm had made statements that damaged Radcliffe‘s reputation, upholding a Hamilton County jury award of $14.5 million, which grew to almost $17 million with interest by the time the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the ruling.

The case stemmed from a 2006 storm which caused more than $1 billion in hail damage to homes across the state. Radcliffe and his company offered to help State Farm policy holders whose claims the insurance company had denied. State Farm subsequently accused Radcliffe of insurance fraud and, later, racketeering. A jury ruled in Radcliffe‘s favor.

Radcliffe‘s attorney, Julia Blackwell Gelinas, says State Farm used a little known rule in which a judge can rehear a civil case if new evidence is introduced.

State Farm introduced an affidavit from one of Radcliffe‘s former employees alleging that the company committed fraud. But a Hamilton County judge again ruled against State Farm, and a three-judge appeals panel unanimously upheld the ruling.

State Farm has not said whether it will appeal to the state Supreme Court. The company has 30 days to decide.