Age discrimination: Farmers Insurance company hit with $749,000 verdict

by Michael Futterman and Jaime Touchstone

A claims adjuster filed suit against Farmers Insurance when she was terminated after returning from a medical leave. A Fresno jury found that Farmers discriminated against the employee based on her age and failed to reasonably accommodate her disability. The jury awarded the employee $749,000, and she may be able to recover her attorneys’ fees as well.

Claims adjuster sues over termination

Farmers Insurance hired Sharron Warehime to work as a claims adjuster in its Visalia office. Warehime, who was 57, had more than 15 years of experience in the insurance industry. Initially, she received good to outstanding job performance ratings and was awarded various professional honors and accolades by Farmers.

Things at Farmers began to sour for Warehime after she was transferred to the company’s Fresno office. Following the transfer, she asked to handle her own caseload rather than working on cases assigned to other adjusters. Her supervisor obliged, allegedly assigning her the largest caseload in the office, including a previously fired coworker’s problematic files.

Overburdened, Warehime eventually requested help and a reduction in her caseload. In response, her supervisor acknowledged that she was responsible for a larger than usual number of files but didn’t reassign any of her work.
On top of the heavier workload, the Fresno office was staffed with younger employees who allegedly began directing ageist comments at Warehime, including “I don’t want to work when I’m your age” and “The old fuddy-duddy is coming in.”

Warehime complained. Her supervisor allegedly responded by conducting “case reviews” on her files, which culminated in Warehime receiving several “warnings” and being placed on probation. When she responded that the negative evaluation of her work was inaccurate and unfair, she was instructed to improve her performance.

The stress at work became so intense that Warehime allegedly suffered a mental breakdown and took a doctor-recommended leave of absence to undergo treatment for depression and anxiety. At the conclusion of her medical leave, her doctor cleared her to return to work, allegedly with a request that Farmers allow her to initially work a part-time schedule. The company didn’t respond to that request, and when she showed up for her first day back, a young man was sitting at her desk. Farmers had allegedly terminated her without notice.

Warehime sued Farmers for violations of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), including claims for age discrimination, retaliation, failure to provide reasonable accommodation, and failure to engage in a timely good-faith interactive process. After a five-week trial, the jury found that Warehime had been a victim of age discrimination and retaliation and that Farmers failed to accommodate her disability. The jury awarded her $749,000, which included damages for lost wages and benefits.

Warehime also filed a motion to recover her attorneys’ fees. That motion and Farmers’ posttrial motions for a new trial and judgment notwithstanding the verdict are set for hearing in January 2014.

Jury believed employee

The FEHA affords job protection to individuals who are 40 or older and prohibits the harassment of any employee or applicant based on age. Businesses that regularly employ five or more workers on a full- or part- time basis must comply with the FEHA’s antidiscrimination provisions and evaluate job applicants and employees on the basis of their abilities, not their age.

Employers with one or more employees may be held responsible for any acts of harassment committed by their agents and supervisors and are required to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent harassment on the basis of age. When a job applicant or employee is denied an employment benefit or is the victim of unlawful harassment based on age, the employer may be liable for age discrimination.

However, the FEHA does not insulate older workers from disciplinary action or performance standards administered equally to employees of all ages. Employers may terminate, discharge, demote, or otherwise discipline an employee who is 40 or older if she either fails to perform the normal functions of her job or conform to its legitimate business requirements.

In her lawsuit, Warehime contended that she was treated differently than other employees because of her age, and when she complained to her supervisor, she experienced retaliation through progressive discipline designed to lead to her termination. In response, Farmers argued that she was terminated because she didn’t embrace technology at work, rejected training to become a better employee, and blamed others for her problems when her workload backed up. Farmers also claimed she “low-balled” customers on their claims, leading to increased lawsuits against the company.

Ultimately, the jury believed Warehime when she asserted that she was a “committed team player and good with customer service” who participated in any required training and received positive performance ratings for the first three years of her employment.

Farmers failed to accommodate disability

The FEHA requires covered employers to accommodate an employee or applicant with a known physical or mental disability as long as the accommodation does not cause an undue hardship. In response to a request for an accommodation, covered employers must engage in a timely good- faith interactive process with the individual to determine if any effective reasonable accommodations are available.

Warehime allegedly suffered from work-related anxiety and depression, making her a qualified individual with a disability under the FEHA. She requested that upon her return from medical leave, Farmers allow her to work a part-time schedule as an accommodation for her mental health condition. Rather than granting her request, Farmers terminated her immediately upon her return from medical leave.

Warehime accused Farmers of failing to provide reasonable accommodation for her disability and failing to engage in a timely interactive process. The jury agreed, which likely contributed to the six-figure award. Sharron Warehime v. Farmers Insurance (Fresno County Superior Court, Case No. 08CECG02976).

Bottom line

Complaints of discrimination based on age and disability require a thoughtful response from employers. Firing an employee on the same day she returns from leave is rarely a good idea. The large jury verdict in this case suggests that Farmers acted in an overly aggressive manner without adequate appreciation for the legal and economic risks at stake.



Farmers Insurance Agents Sue Carrier Over Contracts, Taking Client Info

A group of Farmers Group Inc. agents have filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging the Los Angeles, Calif.-based carrier has undercut them by sharing their data with a competing subsidiary and several contract violations.

The United Farmers Agents Association alleges in its suit that the U.S. subsidiary of Zurich Financial Services in 2009 “began orchestrating and engaging in a series of improper actions” at the expense of Farmers agents.

Those alleged actions include Farmers unilaterally changing the terms of the contracts with its agents, the company using client data gathered by Farmers agents to undercut them and terminating agents through a purposely rigorous new set of standards to take away their books of business and give them to agents making lower commissions.

“Under this  scheme,  Farmers  utilizes  information  and  data  about  the Agents’ policyholders – information and data acquired by the Agents through Agents’ efforts – to directly solicit those Agents’ existing policyholders with less expensive insurance policies sold through a subsidiary of the exchanges,” the suit states.

The fallout between Farmers and its agents seems to have started in 2009 with Farmers purchase of direct writer 21st Century Insurance Group. Following that buyout, Farmers unveiled a series of performance programs subjecting agents to new standards, including production minimums, quoting requirements and office hours, according to the suit.

In 2009 Farmers introduced a modified version of the contract that pertains to agents who entered the contract after that date. That same year Farmers acquired 21st Century, a direct writer of primarily automobile and homeowners’ insurance.

Farmers completed the acquisition of 100 percent of AIG’s U.S. Personal Auto Group, which included 21st Century Insurance, in July 2009. In addition to 21st Century Insurance, the acquisition included the former AIG Direct business and Agency Auto business. The purchase price amounted to approximately $1.9 billion.

Unlike the agent-based model, 21st Century does not rely on agents to sell its insurance products, instead it markets and writes policies directly to consumers.

“By employing a direct writer approach, 21st Century can offer insurance at low  rates  which  undercut  the  rates  being  charged  to  the  Agents’  own customers  and policyholders,” the suit states.

Following the purchase of Century 21, Farmers began using applicant and policyholder data from agents under contract with Farmers and disseminating it to 21st Century and other Farmers-held companies that were competitors of its own agents, according to the suit.

“In both cases, Farmers, through 21st Century or another competitor, would then typically offer insurance policies to the Agents’ policyholders and prospective policyholders  at lower prices than those which Agents could offer,” the suit states.

“These new programs were unlike any past programs, in that they impose explicit  production  minimums  upon  Agents  without  their  consent;  irrespective  of  an Agent’s past performance; and without regard for whether an Agent even markets and sells the particular  type(s) of insurance required  to be marketed  and sold under  the various programs,” the suit states.

UFAA President Tom Schrader declined to discuss the suit in detail, citing his fears that bad publicity would impact Farmers’ clients and agents negatively.

“This is a fundamental disagreement between the company and the agents and we prefer to handle it in-house without airing our dirty laundry,” Schrader said.

Farmers spokesman Mark Toohey offered the following statement:

“Farmers Insurance strongly disagrees with the issues raised in this lawsuit. During our nearly 85-years of doing business in the United States, Farmers Insurance has taken great pride in the strong relationship we have developed with our agents and we look forward to the future.”

The suit continues: “Farmers has used and continues to use these programs as a basis for taking disciplinary and other action against Agents, including termination, in violation of the contracts, which do not contain any provision requiring Agents to meet performance standards of any kind.”

According to the suit, Farmers has also taken action against agents on the basis of the location and type of offices being maintained by agents.

UFAA is a not-for-profit professional trade association, and is a member of the Coalition of Exclusive Agents Associations Inc., a national organization of exclusive agent associations whose companies insure over 60 million families. UFAA describes itself as a voluntary membership  organization  with the purpose of improving working conditions for Farmers insurance agents.

Each member of UFAA represented in the suit has a contract with Farmers. Under the contract agents serve as independent contractors of Farmers and must extend the right of first refusal to Farmers to bind insurance coverage on behalf of applicants procured by the agents.

Aside from sharing agents’ clientele information and contract violations, the suit alleges that Farmers has been terminating some agents for failing to meet the new guidelines and taking their books of business, which under contract is owned by Farmers, and using those books of business to provide seed accounts to newly signed agents earning a smaller commission.

The suit further alleges that the new performance standards imposed upon agents by Farmers are designed to be difficult to meet and they are being used as a pretext for terminating agents.

Aside from setting daily minimums for agents to contact, quote and present insurance products, the new program often also requires agents to market or sell products they have never sold before, according to the suit.

The suit seeks declaratory relief and seeks a jury trial. No trial date has been set. Neither Farmers parent Zurich nor 21st Century are named as parties in the suit.

Click here to read a copy of the lawsuit online.

Source :

Judge Orders Farmers Insurance to Pay Oklahoma Plaintiffs $15M

An Oklahoma judge has ordered Farmers Insurance and a subsidiary to pay a total of $15 million to three plaintiffs who filed claims for damage to their homes caused by a deadly tornado that struck Woodward in 2012.

The plaintiffs alleged that Farmers Insurance and Foremost Insurance Group underpaid claims and used adjusters that they knew would offer low estimates, and District Judge Ray Dean Linder agreed.

“I was shocked at the disservice that was rendered by the defendants in each of the three cases,” Linder said in his verdict issued last week.

The judge ordered the insurance companies to pay $2 million for bad faith and breach of duty and $3 million in punitive damages to each of the three plaintiffs.

Farmers Insurance is still reviewing the judge’s decision and evaluating its next step, said company spokesman Luis Sahagun.

The EF-3 tornado hit Woodward in April 2012, killing six people and injuring 29.

Attorney Jeff Marr filed the lawsuits on behalf of homeowners Sterling Parks, Jeff and Mary Sharpe and Kim and Linda Louthan. He has also filed lawsuits against insurance companies over the May 2013 tornadoes that hit Moore and other Oklahoma towns.

“For every one or two or three – in this case – who stand up and say they won’t take it, there are a thousand who take it, because in many cases the people don’t have a choice,” Marr said. “They are often left in a situation where their house is unlivable and they can’t afford to foot the bill to stay somewhere else or fix the home themselves.”

According to the lawsuit, the insurance company’s adjuster determined that Parks’ home was not structurally damaged and could be repaired. The lawsuit said an engineer hired by Parks said the home should be torn down, not fixed.

“My life has been on hold basically for two years,” Parks said. “It’s nice knowing I will eventually get something.”

Farmers Group Inc. is based in Los Angeles.


Also see VIDEO here

Greg Abbott Takes Thousands from Farmers Insurance PAC As State’s Lawsuit Against Them Continues

Greg Abbott may have been representing Texas in a suit against Farmers Insurance for the past decade, but that hasn’t stopped him from taking over $125,000 from Farmers Insurance PAC since 2005–including over $75,000 since 2013.

The donations have led to charges that Abbott has “not fairly represented homeowners in Texas” in the suit, reaching a settlement that allows Farmers to charge homeowners too much and not pay interest on millions in excessive premiums.

Abbott’s campaign told the Texas Tribune that, “he does not treat donors differently when it comes to applying the law and that accepting the campaign money is not a conflict of interest.” But as Alex Winslow, executive director of Texas Watch told the Tribune, “It was a sweetheart deal when it was struck in 2002, and it’s only gotten sweeter since then.”

Read more about Abbott’s “sweetheart deal” with Farmers Insurance after the jump.The suit began in 2002, as a result of Governor Rick Perry’s investigation into rising homeowners’ insurance rates. The state’s class-action suit against Farmers claimed the company used “deceptive and discriminatory practices,” including charging “Texas policyholders for natural disasters in other states” and using “credit history as a significant factor for setting premiums without disclosing to customers that the practice drove up prices.” John Cornyn, who was Attorney General at the time, estimated Farmers owed policyholders up to $140 million.

At the time, Greg Abbott was running for Attorney General. The contributions he’d received from Farmers Insurance soon became an issue. When Abbott learned of the state’s investigation into Farmers, he vowed to return all campaign contributions from them, criticizing their policies,

“Texas has become the wild west of insurance gouging and holdups. … Texans will not tolerate deceptive acts by insurance companies or corporations of any type. As Attorney General, I will put an end to rate shock by holding accountable any company that bilks consumers out of their hard earned money.”

In 2003, soon after Abbott took office, a preliminary settlement was approved. The settlement was quickly appealed by advocates for consumers, who argued it was too lenient on Farmers Insurance.

The settlement is still pending, and was brought to light again in April at a Travis County district court hearing. Judge Scott Jenkins called the state’s settlement “deferential” to Farmers and questioned why it “allow[ed]the insurance giant to avoid paying interest on millions of dollars in excessive premiums” that it owed to policyholders.

Said Jenkins, “You don’t just have to lay down to Farmers. Farmers has had the benefit of all that money for more than a decade and the consumers haven’t.”

Meanwhile, as the state’s suit continued, Greg Abbott has been accepting tens of thousands of dollars from the Farmers Insurance PAC. Abbott, who as Attorney General is the lawyer leading the state’s suit against Farmers, has received over $125,000 from Farmers Insurance in the past decade–all while the state has been defending a settlement that is “deferential” to Farmers.

In 2002, Greg Abbott pledged to protect consumers from insurance giants like Farmers. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Abbott’s money is where his mouth is, and that’s favoring Farmers Insurance over Texans.


Auto Shops’ Suit Crashes In Insurer Antitrust MDL

Law360, Los Angeles (January 21, 2015, 8:35 PM ET) — A Florida federal judge on Wednesday gutted a suit in multidistrict litigation accusing State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and other insurance providers of conspiring to manipulate car repair costs to reduce their payments, potentially spelling doom for about 20 additional cases.
In dismissing most of the claims in the instant Florida federal suit without prejudice, U.S. District Judge Gregory A. Presnell decided the auto body shops failed to state a claim, including failing to meet the burden for two claims that alleged Sherman Act violations.

Plaintiffs claimed the insurers utilized business agreements with the shops to exert control over their operations and artificially depress car repair costs.

But Judge Presnell decided on Wednesday that the plaintiffs hadn’t sufficiently detailed the alleged agreements. Moreover, the fact that some of the defendants showed an unwillingness to pay more than State Farm had to pay doesn’t by itself raise Sherman Act concerns, according to the judge.

“It is not illegal for a party to decide it is unwilling to pay a higher hourly rate than its competitors have to pay, and the fact that a number of the defendants made statements to that effect does not tip the scales toward illegality,” Wednesday’s order said.

Judge Presnell also found no viable claim that any defendant refused to allow any of its insureds to obtain a repair from a shop that asked for higher prices, or refused to pay for repairs performed at such a shop, and thus tossed another Sherman Act claim.

In addition to price-fixing and boycotting, plaintiffs accused the insurance companies of breaking various state laws by not sufficiently compensating the body shops for work performed, by illegally steering business away from their respective businesses and by illegally suppressing labor rates within the industry.

While there were slight variations among many of the complaints over certain state-law-based alternative grounds for recovery, the core factual allegations in many of the actions were the same, which led to last year’s consolidation. Thus, Judge Presnell’s Wednesday decision in the instant case may indicate that the similar claims in about 20 other cases in the MDL could fail.

The judge tossed plaintiffs’ quantum meruit, unjust enrichment, tortious interference with business relations and conversion claims without prejudice. He dismissed their quasi-estoppel claim with prejudice.

David L. Yohai of Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP — which is representing 21st Century Centennial Insurance Co., Bristol West Insurance Co. and Farmers Insurance Group — told Law360 on Wednesday that they are pleased with the court’s decision.

“Hopefully, the plaintiffs will see the weakness in their pleadings and not prolong this costly process and case which they clearly do not have the facts to support,” Yohai said.

State Farm Public Affairs Director Phil Supple told Law360 that they are pleased with the ruling and that the company’s lawyers are reviewing the order.

An attorney for the repair shops didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment late Wednesday.

The repair shops are represented by John Arthur Eaves Jr. of Eaves Law Firm, among others.

21st Century Centennial Insurance Co., Bristol West Insurance Co. and Farmers Insurance Group are represented by David L. Yohai of Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, among others. State Farm is represented by Michael P. Kenny of Alston & Bird LLP and Michael L. McCluggage of Eimer Stahl LLP, among others. Allstate is represented by Richard L. Fenton of Dentons US LLP, among others.

The case is A&E Auto Body Inc. et al. v. 21st Century Centennial Insurance Co. et al., case number 6:14-cv-00310, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division.


Woman says Farmers Insurance didn’t cover as promised

A Galveston County woman is suing an insurance company over claims the defendant failed to provide the coverage promised in her insurance policy.

Shellie Hoops filed a lawsuit Dec. 29, 2014, in Galveston County District Court against Texas Farmers Insurance Company, citing underpayment for damage to her home from a water leak.

According to the complaint, on June 7, 2014, a sudden discharge of water on Hoops’ property in LaMarque caused severe damage. The suit alleges an adjuster for the company misrepresented the cause and scope of the damage, the amount it would cost to repair it and the plaintiff’s coverage under the policy, resulting in an underpayment that has not allowed Hoops to make needed repairs to the property.

Hoops seeks between $100,000 and $200,000 in damages plus attorney fees and other damages. She is represented by attorney Ben Doherty of Speights & Worrich in San Antonio.

Galveston County District Court case number: 14-CV-1349


Former Farmers Insurance Adjuster Speaks Out

Having first hand experience as a property adjuster with farmers insurance for many years ( now with another company), I can tell you first hand that farmers adjusters were told to tighten up there approvals on wind and hail claims specifically in 2010 & 2011 due to paying to much ($35 million) in 2009 on hail claims just in Illinois alone. They changed there guidelines to basically only pay the worst of the worst damages while bringing in engineers to brain wash their staff into truly believing they were denying wear and tear damages that were true storm damages that should have been covered under the claim and insurance. Since 2011 farmers has now taken an easier approach but through 2013 when I left they were still denying storm damages due to inexperienced adjusters and also overseeing supervisors that would scold their employees for paying to much and being to easy going on approvals. If you truly want your claim accurately paid, file a home office or dept. of insurance complaint and farmers will send out a second adjuster and accurately pay your claim as they fear lawsuits and complaints. Depending on what adjuster you get you will get different claim handling and guidelines. I do not want to name specifically the adjusters who are the toughest on approvals but you will clearly know when talking to them initially or your contractor will know before they get there as they have probably met them in the past. The toughest adjuster for approvals works the northwest area, ie Rockford, crystal lake, Algonquin etc just as a heads up. To piggyback off other posts our catastrophe teams job is to come in give you some money to hold off for the short term. They are severely under trained in handling anything other than wind or hail claims, they do not know all the different state guidelines and will severely short you finds for repairs. I highly suggest requesting a second adjuster if you get one of these adjusters showing up at your house as they will short you money and even screw up coverage on your claim. Not to drag this out but compared to my new company farmers is a joke not only in promoting under experienced people to power positions to make important decisions in the company but also there staff, guidelines ( repairing things against industry standards) and treatment of their policyholders.


Source: Farmers Insurance Adjuster

A Typical Farmers Insurance Interview

I understand that companies don’t hire every candidate and they have a certain selection process– what bothers me though are these nasty recruiters and hiring managers who just have to INSULT candidates interviewing. let me explain that this has happened to me and a friend of mine who interviewed with this company. now im a sales genius- top seller and performer in various venues….I know everything about the sales process and would be the ideal candidate for a position like what they had. now they don’t have to hire me or anyone but what bothered me is that during the interview process I was actually INSULTED by the hiring manager who interviewed me…oh yes INSULTED and told im quiet oh and that he wasn’t convinced I could sell- im laughing at this as I actually gave a TEN MINUTE dissertation on sales and the sales process and brilliantly described in detail everything which most people would never be able to do. they say they are looking for TRUE sales people yet completely treated me as if im a stupid unexperienced quiet person who has no idea what im talking about yet im a proven TOP performer for over ten years in sales? this was just HORRIBLE- they have NO RIGHT to insult candidates this way or even PUT DOWN their abilities..imo its VERY unprofessional- any dolt with a brain would say this is an exceptional person who understands sales beyond most others yet this jerk manager actually insulted me my speaking ability and my PROVEN SALES ability which is disgusting shame on him! he basically just treated me as if im a stupid female with no brain…what a pathetic loser? to judge and put down someone who is actually EXCEPTIONAL is a stupid and ridiculous thing to do esp if you have a position of power over that person..shame on them..

the problem is– when someone calls you QUIET what they are doing is really trying to socially dominate you and PUT you down in MANY WAYS–especially when you are far from quiet…they are trying to demean you, your self esteem, your speaking ability, your character and in essense are saying they are jealous of you and you will never have a chance around them- most people who are threatened by someone will say this to them…I have spoken with MANY quiet soft spoken people and no one ever insults them and they get hired for many positions yet those who are exceptional, outgoing, and who threaten the idiots in places especially like Orlando where losers cohabitate will wrongly get called something like this just to be insulted for no reason. now a hiring manager or recruiter saying this to someone is just a complete domination of that person- that person has no way of defending themselves except saying “well im not quiet.” really they’ve already lost.. and in essence its almost as if they are now arguing with the person or having to fight and in the end they will lose…the hiring manager is putting this person in a corner really and theres not much they can do…what bothers me about this pathetic interview is that I was told this by the nasty hiring manager who already decided he wanted nothing to do with me despite my brilliant answers and the fact that I spoke so intelligently for many minutes at a time about the sales process giving in depth excellent answers…to call someone QUIET after they have spoken for so long is absurd, unfair, ridiculous and a way of social dominance and utterly pathetic…a candidate can say nothing because the imbecilic recruiter has already decided they have the power and place to insult and socially dominate this person no matter what the circumstance…so the candidate not only won’t get hired despite the fact they SHOULD get hired but they will also be INSULTED and have their self esteem put down by this pathetic imbecile in a management position who feels they can treat the candidate this way because they are a recruiter in a position of power over that person….this was my experience with this company and just AWFUL.

its like telling a surgeron who has performed thousands of surgeries theyre not sure that person can do that…its completely FALSE and makes no sense. what’s worse is that the person I shadowed at the company knew NOTHING about sales and wasn’t even a seller and was horrible- in fact everyone there seemed terrible. Sure the company isn’t obligated to hire me or anyone if they choose not to but they have no right to literally insult candidates as if they have any idea…in fact im sure I could not only outsell the manager but am far better than him and maybe they are threatened by exceptional people but at this place they do not hire exceptional people but they insult them during interviews then reject them. I applied to work for these imbeciles- not only did I have all the qualifications but far exceeded them. I was told by the recruiter that someone wasn’t hired by them because the person gave a silly answer to a basic question..its very strange that someone can give in depth brilliant answers and still be insulted AND rejected. im amazing at sales and its been proven. Top performer at many positions. In my interview- I gave a ten minute dissertation on the sales process, something I doubt ANYONE can do and proved I knew everything about sales. of course because I am a female he had to put me down and say I am ‘soft spoken’ and he’s not sure I can do the position lol! ive been doing TELEPHONE SALES for over 10 years and a proven sales success and he’s telling me he isn’t sure I can sell insurance over the phone? is he crazy? Also I’m a sales GENIUS being able to sit there and analyze everything about sales, my call, the person I shadowed their call – EVERYTHING and this imbecile is saying he’s not sure I can SELL? the sales person I shadowed was horrible and not even a sales rep! He was awful and not even selling and completely stupid and this a**hole recruiter at farmers is trying to put ME down a sales freaking genius and also trying to say im “SOFT SPOKEN” after giving a dissertation on sales?? these managers these days are crazy- it seems they are threatened by exceptional people especially those who are women and its disturbing and disgusting. I think this was gender discrimination as im a pretty female and he just HAD to put me down and mistreat me in this terrible way. I KNEW I wasn’t hired the minute I left- and it’s really weird how recruiters these days are brain dead imbeciles who like to put down the BEST employees or potential employees and they hire complete dolts, stupid people and people who I think are just robots. for a company like this they should have been BEGGING to get a sales rep as good as me and someone not only who is so knowledgable but someone who knows everything about It and has a TON of experience- but no instead the trashy POS sales manager had to INSULT me and put me down even put down my speaking ability which is GREAT and my sales ability and say hes not sure or convinced I can SELL something ive been doing for over TEN YEARS being the TOP REP at every single place ive worked??? someone needs to teach tehse idiots a lesson….they have creeps as hiring managers and really crappy trashy people who insult and put down really amazing people…screw them!

also, once these nasty hiring managers do not hire you once…they will NEVER consider you again because they are in this case JEALOUS or threatened by your abilities and would never even think to hire you however they will hire total idiots who have no ability, no experience and who are horrible at the job!

my advice to people interviewing with this awful company is just act very stupid and sit there silent and act dumb because you will be praised rewarded for it and get hired- if you make a very STUPID mistake, they wont hire you but if you just act stupid and average they will like you and take you. however, if you are exceptional and great, they will insult berate you and then reject you immediately while laughing in your face…it’s a trashy and bad company beware…again what bothers me is that my talents and abilities were falsely INSULTED by the nasty manager rather than be praised for my excellent history and great sales abilities…how dare they do this to people coming in to interview–they try to break random people down? they have no place to do this….tehse people are far underqualified along with the people they hire and use their abilities to undermine demean and insult amazing candidates far above their crappy qualifications and far above their own selves…what a trashy place run by trashy crappy people…what bothers me about these terrible companies and crappy managers that do this is that, they promote STUPIDITY and bad workmanship…rather than praising and promoting individuals with TALENT INTELLECT and ABILITY they insult them during the interview process in turn trying to mess with their self esteem, their abilities…this is horrible this what this society is coming down to–punishing those who are great and exceptional and rewarding idiots with no skills or abilities? this is what disgusts me about practices and companies like these that feel they can treat individuals this way…shame on them and hope they hire more dolts because that’s what that terrible place deserves…


Farmers Insurance Refuses to Pay

Another Lawsuit against Farmers Insurance.   Farmers Insurance is always refusing to pay.  -Admin

Hagan and Ewald were insured by Farmers and had underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage up to $250,000 and medical payments coverage up to $25,000. Abdullahi was insured by Young America Insurance (“Young America”), with a policy limit of $25,000. Young America paid Ewald $25,000 to settle her claim. It paid Hagan $15,000 to settle her claim and held $10,000 in reserve for additional exposure. Hagan and Ewald contend that they also were entitled to UIM benefits, which Farmers has refused to pay.

—— snip——-   —— snip——-

Colorado Supreme Court — January 26, 2015
2015 CO 6. Nos. 14SA266, 14SA267 & 14SA313. In re Hagan v. Farmers Insurance Exchange; In re Ewald v. Farmers Insurance Exchange; In re Mayfield v. Farmers Insurance Exchange.

The Supreme Court of the State of Colorado
2 East 14th Avenue • Denver, Colorado 80203

2015 CO 6

Supreme Court Case No. 14SA266
Original Proceeding Pursuant to C.A.R. 21
Boulder County District Court Case No. 14CV30599
Honorable D.D. Mallard, Judge
Arapahoe County District Court Case No. 14CV171
Honorable Elizabeth Ann Weishaupl, Judge

In Re

Deanna Hagan and Shane Hagan,
Farmers Insurance Exchange.

* * * * *

Supreme Court Case No. 14SA267
Original Proceeding Pursuant to C.A.R. 21
Boulder County District Court Case No. 14CV30600
Honorable Andrew Hartman, Judge
Arapahoe County District Court Case No. 14CV162
Honorable F. Stephen Collins, Judge

In Re

Cynthia Ewald,
Farmers Insurance Exchange.

* * * * * 

Supreme Court Case No. 14SA313
Original Proceeding Pursuant to C.A.R. 21
Boulder County District Court Case No. 14CV30842
Honorable D.D. Mallard, Judge
El Paso County District Court Case No. 14CV364
Honorable Maria R. Prudek, Judge

In Re

James Mayfield,
Farmers Insurance Exchange.

Rules Made Absolute
en banc

January 26, 2015

Attorneys for Plaintiffs Deanna Hagan, Shane Hagan, and Cynthia Ewald:
Taussig & Taussig, P.C.
John E. Taussig, III
Dustin E. Bergman

Boulder, Colorado

The Fowler Law Firm, LLC
Timms R. Fowler

Fort Collins, Colorado

Attorneys for Plaintiff James Mayfield:
Richard M. Crane Denver, Colorado
Earl & Earl, PLLC
Collin J. Earl

Castle Rock, Colorado

Attorneys for Defendant:
Fowler, Schimberg & Flanagan, P.C.
Daniel M. Fowler
Max S. Gad

Denver, Colorado

JUSTICE HOOD delivered the Opinion of the Court.


¶1         These original proceedings involve plaintiffs who filed separate actions against the same defendant, Farmers Insurance Exchange (“Farmers”), in Boulder County District Court. In each case, Farmers moved to change venue under C.R.C.P. 98(f)(2), alleging that a change would promote “the convenience of witnesses and the ends of justice.” Farmers supported its motions with attorney affidavits that purport to demonstrate—based on Google Maps printouts alone—that the transferee court is a more convenient venue for the plaintiffs and their medical treatment providers. The trial court granted the motions in all three cases.

¶2       The plaintiffs asked this court to issue a rule to show cause why the orders granting a change of venue should not be vacated and venue transferred back to Boulder County. Their petitions under C.A.R. 21 exposed an inconsistency in how judges within the same district have applied Rule 98. Recognizing the need to promote a uniform application of the venue rules, we issued our rules to show cause.

¶3       We now make our rules absolute. We hold that the trial courts abused their discretion when they changed the venue in these cases. First, Boulder County District Court is a proper venue for all three cases; under C.R.C.P. 98(c)(1), the plaintiffs were allowed to file their complaints in the county of their choice because Farmers is a nonresident defendant. Second, the trial courts granted the motions without the requisite evidentiary support. The affidavits that Farmers submitted improperly focus on convenience to the plaintiffs and do not satisfy the standard set forth in Sampson v.  District Court, 197 Colo. 158, 160, 590 P.2d 958, 959 (1979). Sampson requires a party seeking to change venue under Rule 98(f)(2) to support the motion with evidence indicating “the identity of the witnesses, the nature, materiality and admissibility of their testimony, and how the witnesses would be better accommodated by the requested change in venue.” Id. Consequently, we direct the transferee courts to return the cases to Boulder County District Court.

I. Facts and Procedural History

A. Hagan and Ewald

¶4       In 2011, Deanna Hagan (a driver) and her mother-in-law, Cynthia Ewald (her passenger), were involved in a car accident in Weld County. A third party, Abdi Abdullahi, allegedly collided with them after running a red light. Both Hagan and Ewald were hurt in the collision and received medical treatment for their injuries. Hagan asserts that she incurred over $11,000 in medical expenses and lost income because of her injuries. Ewald asserts that she incurred almost $68,000 in medical expenses and also lost income because of her injuries.

¶5       Hagan and Ewald were insured by Farmers and had underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage up to $250,000 and medical payments coverage up to $25,000. Abdullahi was insured by Young America Insurance (“Young America”), with a policy limit of $25,000. Young America paid Ewald $25,000 to settle her claim. It paid Hagan $15,000 to settle her claim and held $10,000 in reserve for additional exposure. Hagan and Ewald contend that they also were entitled to UIM benefits, which Farmers has refused to pay.

¶6       Represented by the same counsel, Hagan (together with her husband) and Ewald filed separate lawsuits against Farmers in Boulder County District Court on the same day. The lawsuits asserted claims for breach of contract, bad faith breach of insurance contract, and improper denial of insurance claims in violation of sections 10-3-1115(1)(a) and 10-3-1116(1), C.R.S. (2014). The Hagans also asserted a loss of consortium claim.

¶7       In both cases, Farmers filed a motion to change the venue to Arapahoe County District Court under Rule 98(f)(2), emphasizing that “[n]o potential witnesses have any connection to Boulder County.” Farmers supported its motions with affidavits by its attorney, which contained Google Maps printouts and estimated distances and travel times for the plaintiffs and their potential witnesses.1

¶8       The trial courts granted Farmers’ motions to change venue. The trial court in Ewald’s case ruled first. It determined that Boulder County was not a proper venue. Then, noting that Ewald’s medical treatment providers were “substantially closer” to the transferee court, it concluded that “a change in venue would promote the convenience of witnesses and the ends of justice.” Relying on the order in Ewald, the trial court in the Hagans’ case followed suit.

B. Mayfield

¶9       In 2012, James Mayfield was involved in a car accident in El Paso County with an underinsured motorist, Mark Merriman, who allegedly failed to stop at a traffic light. Mayfield was hurt in the collision and received medical treatment for his injuries. He asserts that he incurred over $73,000 in medical expenses, had to drop out of school, and suffered a loss of earning capacity and substantial non-economic losses.

¶10       Mayfield was insured by Farmers and had UIM coverage up to $100,000. Merriman was insured by GEICO, with liability coverage up to $100,000. Mayfield filed a lawsuit against Merriman and settled it for $95,000. Claiming that his damages far exceeded $100,000, Mayfield then sought UIM benefits from Farmers. Farmers offered him $15,000 and refused to pay more.

¶11       Represented by different counsel than the Hagans and Ewald, Mayfield filed a lawsuit against Farmers in Boulder County District Court. In response to a motion to change venue, Mayfield’s counsel filed an affidavit in which he stated that “[t]he reason that Plaintiff’s Complaint was filed in Boulder was that Colorado’s new Civil Access Pilot Project rules (CAPP) are not applicable in Boulder County District Court” and that he and his co-counsel “do not feel that this would be a good case to litigate under the CAPP rules.”2 Mayfield asserted claims for breach of contract and improper denial of insurance claims in violation of sections 10-3-1115(1)(a) and 10-3-1116(1). Mayfield’s case was assigned to the same trial judge as the Hagans’ case.

¶12       Represented by the same defense counsel, Farmers filed a motion to change the venue to El Paso County District Court under Rule 98(f)(2), again emphasizing that “[n]o potential witnesses have any connection to Boulder County.” Farmers once more supported its motion with an attorney affidavit with attached Google Maps printouts and estimated distances and travel times for the plaintiff and his potential witnesses. The trial court granted the motion.3

II. Original Jurisdiction

¶13       Under C.A.R. 21, this court may exercise its original jurisdiction to review the trial courts’ orders because they relate to venue. See City of Colo. Springs v. Bd. of Comm’rs, 147 P.3d 1, 2 (Colo. 2006). Venue refers to the place of trial or “the locality where an action may be properly brought.” State v. Borquez, 751 P.2d 639, 641 (Colo. 1988). Review is appropriate under C.A.R. 21 because “[i]ssues involving venue directly affect the trial court’s jurisdiction and authority to proceed with a case.” City of Colo. Springs, 147 P.3d at 2 (citing Millet v. Dist. Court, 951 P.2d 476, 477 (Colo. 1998)). Further, review of a venue determination serves to avoid the delay and expense involved in a re-trial should this court deem venue improper. See id. (citing Bd. of Cnty. Comm’rs v. Dist. Court, 632 P.2d 1017, 1020 (Colo. 1981)).

III. Analysis

¶14       Generally, a plaintiff is entitled to choose the place of trial when venue in more than one county would be proper. 7 Utes Corp. v. Dist. Court, 702 P.2d 262, 266 (Colo. 1985) (characterizing it as a plaintiff’s “right”); accord Tillery v. Dist. Court, 692 P.2d 1079, 1083–84 n.9 (Colo. 1984) (“[T]he plaintiffs, absent C.R.C.P. 98(f)(2) concerns, are entitled to their choice of venue.”). There is a “strong presumption” in favor of that choice. UIH-SFCC Holdings, L.P. v. Brigato, 51 P.3d 1076, 1078 (Colo. App. 2002).

¶15       The party seeking a change of venue bears the burden of proving the right to a change. Cliff v. Gleason, 142 Colo. 500, 502, 351 P.2d 394, 396 (1960) (citing Fletcher v.  Stowell, 17 Colo. 94, 97, 28 P. 326, 327 (1891)). A court may change the place of trial “on good cause shown” under two circumstances: “(1) When the county designated in the complaint is not the proper county; (2) When the convenience of witnesses and the ends of justice would be promoted by the change.” C.R.C.P. 98(f). A trial court’s decision on a motion to change venue is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Sampson, 197 Colo. at 159–60, 590 P.2d at 959. If the trial court grants a motion to change venue despite a defendant’s failure to show that venue should be changed under the standard delineated in Sampson, this court will return the action to the original venue for trial. Tillery, 692 P.2d at 1084.

¶16       To assess whether the trial courts abused their discretion in granting Farmers’ requests for a change of venue, we ask two questions. First, was venue in Boulder County District Court proper? The answer to this question is yes. Second, can a defendant seeking a change of venue under Rule 98(f)(2) based on witness convenience and the ends of justice satisfy its burden by submitting an affidavit that focuses on the proximity of the respective venues to the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s possible witnesses? The answer to this question is no.

A. Rule 98(f)(1)

¶17       We first assess whether Boulder County is a “proper county” for these cases for purposes of Rule 98(f)(1) and conclude that it is.4

¶18       Our inquiry begins with the language of Rule 98(c), which presents a series of alternative, and equally appropriate, venues in a tort, contract, or other action. At issue here, subsection (1) provides:

[A]n action shall be tried in the county in which the defendants, or any of them, may reside at the commencement of the action, or in the county where the plaintiff resides when service is made on the defendant in such county; or if the defendant is a nonresident of this state, the [action] may be tried in any county in which the defendant may be found in this state, or in the county designated in the complaint, and if any defendant is about to depart from the state, such action may be tried in any county where plaintiff resides, or where defendant may be found and service had.

C.R.C.P. 98(c)(1) (emphasis added).5

¶19       Here, it is undisputed that Farmers has its principal place of business in California and is not a resident of Colorado. Consequently, pursuant to the highlighted language above, the Hagans, Ewald, and Mayfield were permitted to designate any county in their complaints, including Boulder County. See Denver Air Ctr. v. Dist.  Court, 839 P.2d 1182, 1184–85 (Colo. 1992) (“The language of [Rule 98(c)] has been interpreted to permit trial of an action in the county of plaintiff’s choice where no defendant is a resident of Colorado.” (citing Int’l Serv. Ins. Co. v. Ross, 169 Colo. 451, 462, 457 P.2d 917, 923 (1969))); see also Stephen A. Hess, 5A Colorado Practice:  Handbook on Civil Litigation § 1.5 (2014) (“If no defendant is a resident, the plaintiff may choose any county to name as the place of venue.”).

¶20       However, when the trial court granted Farmers’ motion for a change of venue in Ewald’s action, it deemed “Plaintiffs’ designated venue of Boulder County” to be “improper under C.R.C.P. 98(c).” It reached this conclusion after quoting only a portion of Rule 98(c)(1), which omitted the key phrase “or in the county designated in the complaint.” Following suit eight days later, the trial court in the Hagans’ action incorporated the legal analysis in the Ewald order into its own order granting Farmers’ motion for a change of venue—noting that it was “persuasive authority because the Court agrees with its logic.”

¶21       The trial courts in the Hagan and Ewald lawsuits abused their discretion in holding that Boulder County was not a proper venue. Because Farmers is a nonresident of Colorado, the plaintiffs were permitted to designate any county in their complaints under Rule 98(c)(1). In choosing Boulder, the plaintiffs may well have engaged in “forum shopping” and ventured away from where these cases seem to have their roots. But Rule 98(c)(1) does not restrict the plaintiff’s choice of venue when the defendant is a nonresident,6 and potential witnesses need not have a connection to Boulder, despite Farmers’ insistence to the contrary.7

B. Rule 98(f)(2)

¶22       We next assess whether a change of venue would promote “the convenience of witnesses and the ends of justice” as required by C.R.C.P. 98(f)(2)—focusing on the type of evidence that a movant must present. We conclude that the attorney affidavits that Farmers presented to the district court were insufficient under Sampson and its progeny.

¶23       In Sampson, this court made clear that the party moving to change venue under Rule 98(f)(2) must show, “through affidavit or evidence, the identity of the witnesses, the nature, materiality and admissibility of their testimony, and how the witnesses would be better accommodated by the requested change in venue.” 197 Colo. at 160, 590 P.2d at 959; see also Ranger Ins. Co. v. Dist. Court, 647 P.2d 1229, 1231 (Colo. 1982) (reiterating this principle); Dep’t of Highways, 635 P.2d at 891 (same).

¶24       This standard consolidates the varying requirements imposed in earlier cases, which we cited in Sampson. See, e.g., Enyart v. Orr, 78 Colo. 6, 11, 238 P. 29, 32 (1925) (emphasizing that “[a]ffidavits in support of motions for change of venue should state facts”); Corson v. Neatheny, 9 Colo. 212, 214–15, 11 P. 82, 84 (1886) (upholding denial of motion to change venue where supporting affidavit contained information that would not have been admissible); Denver & R.G.R. Co. v. Cahill, 8 Colo. App. 158, 163, 45 P. 285, 286 (1896) (labeling as “insufficient” an affidavit that “did not state what any witness would testify to, or that the testimony of any witness would be material to any issue in the case”); see also Hills v. La Due, 5 Colo. App. 248, 249, 38 P. 430, 430–31 (1894) (stating that affidavit in support of motion to change venue should contain “[t]he facts to which the witness whose convenience it was desired to subserve would testify” and, since no answer had been filed and no defense disclosed, “the facts constituting the defense”).

¶25       Conclusory statements do not satisfy this standard. In Sampson, for example, this court explained that it was not enough for the movant to assert that the designated venue was remote and that witnesses would be inconvenienced. 197 Colo. at 160, 590 P.2d at 959. And in Ranger Insurance Co., this court concluded that the record was too limited to support a change of venue when the movant summarily asserted that another venue would be more convenient for the witnesses and would promote the ends of justice. 647 P.2d at 1231.

¶26       When the movant makes the requisite showing, the party opposing the change “must at least balance the showing made by the moving party” or the court should grant the motion. Dep’t of Highways, 635 P.2d at 891. Farmers has not made the requisite showing in these cases, as the attorney affidavits that it submitted in support of its motions to change venue do not satisfy the Sampson standard.

¶27       In all three cases, Farmers’ motions relied on affidavits by its attorney. Those affidavits primarily analyze (1) the distance the plaintiffs and their medical treatment providers would have to travel to get to the proposed transferee court, as compared to the original venue, and (2) the approximate travel time to each venue. Because these travel distances and times are generally shorter for the proposed transferee court, Farmers contends that the transferee court is necessarily a more convenient venue under Rule 98(f)(2). We disagree.

¶28       The problem lies not in who provided the affidavits, but in their contents. The deficiency is twofold.

¶29       First and foremost, Farmers’ affidavits focus inordinately on the convenience of the non-moving party. Farmers calculates (and compares) the distance and estimated travel time, without traffic, from the plaintiffs’ homes to the Boulder County and Arapahoe County courthouses (in the Hagan and Ewald actions) and to the Boulder County and El Paso County courthouses (in the Mayfield action).8 But a plaintiff’s convenience is not a defendant’s concern. A defendant may not use a plaintiff’s residential address (or a plaintiff’s professional address) against him or her to attack a venue that is specifically permitted by Rule 98.

¶30       Second, to satisfy the standard set forth in Sampson, the affidavits must contain three categories of pertinent information: (1) “the identity of the witnesses”; (2) “the nature, materiality and admissibility of their testimony”; and (3) “how the witnesses would be better accommodated by the requested change in venue.” See Sampson, 197 Colo. at 160, 590 P.2d at 959. No category is determinative; the trial court must assess the totality of the circumstances to assess whether a change of venue is necessary and appropriate.

¶31       We evaluate each category in turn. We do so against the backdrop of our case law, which provides examples of what types of evidence will (and will not) support a Rule 98(f)(2) motion, as well as guidance on the types of circumstances that may justify a change of venue. Department of Highways, for instance, provides an exemplar of an affidavit that contains the requisite information. There, a motorist who was injured in an accident due to a hole in the pavement on an exit ramp filed a negligence action against the Department of Highways in Denver County. 635 P.2d at 890. The Department filed a motion to change venue to Kit Carson County, which it supported with an affidavit by its assistant maintenance superintendent, who investigated the accident. Id. at 890–91. The affidavit listed the names and addresses of 15 witnesses whom the Department (not the plaintiff) intended to call at trial—six of whom were employees and all of whom resided in Kit Carson County. Id. at 891. The affidavit contained a brief description of their testimony. Id. It averred the Department operated with very few employees due to budget limitations and it would be impossible to maintain the local roads with these employees attending a trial in Denver, over 150 miles away; thus, the inconvenience was to the Department and not to the plaintiff. Id. We deemed this affidavit sufficient to justify a change of venue. Id. at 890–92.

1. The Identity of the Witnesses

¶32       We begin by evaluating whether Farmers’ attorney affidavits sufficiently set forth “the identity of the witnesses.”

¶33       Farmers lists the plaintiffs’ own names and addresses, together with the names and addresses of their “treating medical providers” and the physicians who performed their independent medical evaluations.9 Farmers extracted this information from the plaintiffs’ demand letters, which it attached to the affidavits. As explained above, the party plaintiffs’ convenience is immaterial. Also, identification of the plaintiffs’ medical treatment providers implicates the third prong, namely how witnesses would be affected.

¶34       The affidavits largely ignore Farmers’ own employees, as well as potential third-party witnesses. Only the affidavit filed in Ewald’s case—which lists “Heidi Hanson, the most recent claims handler on Plaintiff’s claim”—identifies any of Farmers’ own employee-witnesses by name.10 And only the affidavit in Mayfield’s case lists a third-party witness—“the underlying tortfeasor, Mark Merriman.”11

¶35       Furthermore, Farmers lists numerous business names, without specifying a doctor or corporate representative.12 Although the demand letters (which contain some additional identifying information) are also attached in support of the motions, complete information for each witness should be apparent from the face of an affidavit (or other evidence) to facilitate the court’s evaluation of the motion to change venue.

¶36       Because Farmers focuses almost exclusively on the plaintiffs and their medical treatment providers and omits its own potential witnesses, and because Farmers often provides business names only, its affidavits do not identify the witnesses sufficiently to justify a change of venue under Rule 98(f)(2).

2. The Nature, Materiality, and Admissibility of the Witnesses’ Testimony

¶37       We next consider the second prong of the Sampson standard—whether Farmers’ attorney affidavits address the nature, materiality, and admissibility of the potential witnesses’ testimony. This requirement ensures that a motion to change venue does not engender a meaningless “battle of numbers,” in which the parties compete by presenting the reviewing court with long lists of possible witnesses located in their preferred venues.

¶38       This court has applied this requirement (and deemed it fulfilled) in cases such as Department of Highways. See 635 P.2d at 890–92. But we have not yet expanded on what it takes to satisfy this requirement. We do so today, turning to commentary on 28 U.S.C. § 1404 (2014) (the federal counterpart to Rule 98) for guidance.

¶39       The party seeking a change of venue must provide at least “a general summary” of what the key witnesses’ testimony will cover. See 15 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Edward H. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3851 (3d ed. 2010). That description should provide the reviewing court with enough information to understand whether the witnesses are important or peripheral. Id. (noting that the description should allow the trial court “to determine what and how important their testimony will be”). Consider, for example, a case in which one key nonparty witness is located in or near the original venue and another key nonparty witness is located in or near the proposed venue. The description should allow the court to make an informed judgment as to their respective importance. In addition, if the admissibility of a witness’s testimony is in question (e.g., because it contains hearsay), the affidavit identifying that witness should briefly explain why his or her testimony will likely be admissible.

¶40       We recognize that motions to change venue are generally filed at the beginning stages of litigation, before the parties have engaged in discovery. But this timing should not preclude a movant from providing information at this most basic level.

¶41       Because Farmers’ affidavits do not contain any information at all on the nature, materiality, and admissibility of the potential witnesses’ testimony, they do not meet the second prong of the Sampson standard and do not justify a change of venue under Rule 98(f)(2).13

3. How the Witnesses Would Be Affected

¶42       Last, we assess whether Farmers’ attorney affidavits establish “how the witnesses would be better accommodated by the requested change in venue.” In other words, how will the change affect the witnesses?

¶43       The affidavits do not establish how any witnesses would be better accommodated by the requested change of venue. Distance and travel time logically factor into convenience, but they are not dispositive. Farmers’ assertion that trial in Boulder County would be inconvenient for witnesses is largely speculative.

¶44       Courts have expressed suspicion when a defendant advocates for the convenience of a plaintiff’s witnesses.14 We share their apprehension. While the convenience of the plaintiffs’ witnesses is relevant in assessing convenience under Rule 98(f)(2), the moving party should point to more than distance: Do the professional witnesses, such as treatment providers, actually object to the travel involved? If so, why?

¶45       The affidavits do not demonstrate that a single witness actually stated that it would be inconvenient for him or her to attend a trial in Boulder County, as compared to the transferee courts. Witness affidavits to this effect would help. See Tillery, 692 P.2d at 1081–83 (affirming that Denver County District Court had discretion to grant motion to change venue to Summit County, when motion was supported by witness affidavits stating that it would be inconvenient for them to appear in Denver); cf. Lopez  v. Am. Standard Ins. Co., No. 14CV30476 (Colo. Dist. Ct. Aug. 7, 2014) (Order: Reply in Support of Motion to Change Venue) (considering that three of plaintiff’s witnesses provided an affidavit stating that Weld County would not be more convenient than Boulder County in denying insurance company’s motion to change venue under Rule 98(f)(2)); see also Jacobs v. Banks Shapiro Gettinger Waldinger & Brennan, LLP, 780 N.Y.S.2d 582, 583 (N.Y. App. Div. 2004) (emphasizing that defendants “did not even indicate that they had contacted the nonparty witnesses, much less identify the specific inconveniences which might be incurred by the witnesses,” rendering their moving papers insufficient as a matter of law).

¶46       It is also noteworthy that the affidavits do not contain the home addresses for the potential witnesses, except for the plaintiffs themselves. Without requiring that a movant include both work and home addresses for each witness identified, we note the possibility that the witnesses’ homes might be closer to Boulder County, thereby rendering that venue more convenient for those witnesses traveling from home, not the workplace.

¶47       Further, it does not appear that the plaintiffs even intend to call the many witnesses enumerated in the affidavits, or (on the flip side) that Farmers’ witness list is complete. By way of example, Mayfield advises the court that he does not intend to call the majority of the medical treatment providers that Farmers lists in its affidavit. He also notes that the expert witnesses whom he intends to call—who are not on Farmers’ list—are closer to Boulder County than to El Paso County.

¶48       Finally, distance and travel time—while relevant—constitute a nebulous benchmark.15 Granted, this court has not hesitated to find inconvenience in cases involving significant travel differentials in the 150-mile to 200-mile range. See Dep’t of Highways, 635 P.2d at 891–92 (stating that the trial court should have considered the 150-mile distance between Kit Carson County and Denver County in assessing convenience for the witnesses); Bacher, 527 P.2d at 59 (vacating an order denying a motion to change venue, where the counties were remote and material witnesses would have had to travel approximately 200 miles to get to the designated venue). But when two closely situated counties are under scrutiny, no bright line separates convenience from inconvenience. For instance, assuming that the witnesses listed in Farmers’ attorney affidavit in Mayfield’s case actually will testify, where does a 76.5- to 97.6-mile difference fall on the convenience spectrum?

¶49       The split within the Boulder County District Court illustrates that no universal notion of convenience exists. The trial courts found Boulder County to be inconvenient here, but other judges in the same district have deemed extra travel time within the greater Denver area to be less consequential.

¶50       Because Farmers’ evidence does not establish that the witnesses would be better accommodated by a move to another county, it does not justify a change of venue under Rule 98(f)(2). 

4. The Ends of Justice

¶51       In addition to the convenience arguments advanced through the attorney affidavits, Farmers asserts that a change of venue would promote “the ends of justice” by (1) ensuring that “a jury of the majority of the vicinage of the witnesses pass upon their credibility”; (2) deterring plaintiffs from forum shopping to avoid CAPP districts; and (3) reducing witness costs for which Farmers will be responsible if it loses at trial. We reject these arguments.

¶52       “Vicinage” means “vicinity” or “proximity.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1702 (9th ed. 2009). In the context of juries, it is a somewhat anachronistic term referring to “the locality from which jurors will be drawn.” 4 Wayne R. LaFave et al., Criminal Procedure § 16.1 (3d ed. 2007 & Supp. 2014). In criminal cases, for instance, jurors must generally “be selected from a geographical district that includes the locality of the commission of the crime,” without extending “too far beyond the general vicinity of that locality.” Id. There is no corresponding vicinage requirement in civil cases. Moreover, the venues under consideration here are all metropolitan areas along the Front Range; therefore, any difference in the jury’s composition would likely be minimal.

¶53       Farmers’ CAPP and costs-based arguments are likewise without merit. We decline to impose hurdles on a plaintiff’s choice of venue that do not exist in the plain language of Rule 98 and section 13-16-122, C.R.S. (2014) (“Items includable as costs”).16

IV. Conclusion

¶54       “[C]onsistent with specific venue provisions, courts should attempt to accommodate the litigants and their witnesses to the greatest extent possible.” Evans v.  Dist. Court, 194 Colo. 299, 303, 572 P.2d 811, 814 (1977). Still, courts must do so within established parameters. Thirty-six years ago, in Sampson, this court outlined certain evidentiary requirements for a motion to change venue. The trial courts granted Farmers’ motions to change venue without insisting upon the critical information that Sampson requires. It was an abuse of discretion for the trial courts to order a change of venue without adequate supporting affidavits or an evidentiary hearing. See Sampson, 197 Colo. at 160, 590 P.2d at 960; accord Ranger Ins. Co., 647 P.2d at 1231. Consequently, we now make our rules to show cause absolute.

¶55       We hold that the trial courts abused their discretion when they changed the venue in these cases. First, Boulder County District Court is a proper venue for all three cases; under Rule 98(c)(1), the plaintiffs were allowed to file their complaints in the county of their choice because Farmers is a nonresident defendant. Second, the trial courts granted the motions without the requisite evidentiary support. The affidavits that Farmers submitted improperly focus on convenience to the plaintiffs and do not satisfy the standard set forth in Sampson, 197 Colo. at 160, 590 P.2d at 959. Sampson requires a party seeking to change venue under Rule 98(f)(2) to support the motion with evidence indicating “the identity of the witnesses, the nature, materiality and admissibility of their testimony, and how the witnesses would be better accommodated by the requested change in venue.” Id.

¶56       We direct the transferee courts to return the cases to Boulder County District

1 Google Maps is a software application that provides step-by-step driving directions (with street maps) from one location to another, together with the distance and estimated travel time between the two locations. See Google Maps, (last visited Jan. 23, 2015).

2 The CAPP Rules apply to certain business actions in district court. Their purpose is to streamline litigation and “to decrease the burden of civil litigation on both litigants and courts, increase access to judicial dispute resolution, and protect the civil trial as a valuable institution.” See Colorado Civil Rules Pilot Project, A History and Overview of the Colorado Civil Access Pilot Project Applicable to Business Actions in District Court, available at (last visited Jan. 23, 2015). Under Chief Justice Directive 11-02 (amended July 2014), the CAPP Rules apply to designated cases in the First District (Jefferson and Gilpin Counties), Second District (Denver County), Seventeenth District (Adams County only), and Eighteenth District (Arapahoe County only).

3 The parties each submitted district court orders to support their positions. Although the facts of the cases vary, it is clear that judges within Boulder County District Court have not taken a consistent approach in resolving motions to change venue. Some judges have routinely approved motions to change venue based on affidavits like the ones Farmers submitted here. Other judges have denied motions to change venue under similar circumstances.

4 Because the orders in the Hagan and Ewald actions declare to the contrary, we address this issue even though Farmers concedes this point and does not challenge our precedent allowing a plaintiff to designate any county under Rule 98(c)(1) when a defendant is a nonresident.

5 We cannot ascertain from the record whether additional venues might be appropriate. For instance, Rule 98(c)(2) provides that “an action upon contract may also be tried in the county where the same was to be performed.” C.R.C.P. 98(c)(2). Rule 98(c)(4) provides that “[a]n action upon a contract for services may also be tried in the county in which the services were to be performed.” C.R.C.P. 98(c)(4). And Rule 98(c)(5) provides that “[a]n action for tort may also be tried in the county where the tort was committed.” C.R.C.P. 98(c)(5). We need not analyze these alternative venue provisions today, however, because the parties have not relied upon them.

6 A plaintiff’s ability to designate any county under Rule 98(c)(1) does not, of course, mean that his or her venue choice is unfettered. We made clear in Department of Highways v. District Court, 635 P.2d 889, 891–92 (Colo. 1981), and Bacher v. District Court, 186 Colo. 314, 319, 527 P.2d 56, 59 (1974), that a plaintiff’s venue choice is subject to change under Rule 98(f)(2) when the defendant’s motion to change venue is well supported.

7 Farmers repeatedly points out that the Hagan and Ewald cases have no ties to Boulder, beyond the plaintiffs’ counsel having offices there. Yet, in seeking to avoid Boulder County as a venue, Farmers seems to be engaging in the same type of behavior that it condemns. Farmers itself does not establish a connection between its own venue choices and the parties or the underlying events in the Hagan and Ewald actions. This deficiency may stem in part from the continuing debate over the plaintiffs’ county of residence—a debate that the plaintiffs did not resolve during briefing to this court. The complaints allege that the Hagans live with Ewald and are residents of Denver County; however, Farmers states in its motions to change venue that the address provided after the signature block in the complaints corresponds to Arapahoe County through various websites. (By contrast, Farmers has shown a connection between Mayfield’s action and El Paso County. The accident occurred there, Merriman is a resident there, and some of Mayfield’s medical treatment providers have offices there.)

8 Farmers calculates that the Hagans and Ewald (who live together) would have to travel an additional 31.9 miles, or 37 minutes without traffic, to get to Boulder County than to Arapahoe County. It calculates that Mayfield would have to travel an additional 93.9 miles, or 89 minutes without traffic, to get to Boulder County than to El Paso County.

9 Using their office addresses as the starting point, Farmers calculates that 5 of Hagan’s medical treatment providers and 10 of Ewald’s providers would have to travel an additional 23.6 to 40.4 miles, or 24 to 41 minutes without traffic. It calculates that the doctor who performed an independent medical examination of Hagan and Ewald would have to travel an additional 9.8 miles, or 10 minutes without traffic. In addition, Farmers notes that 10 of Mayfield’s medical treatment providers are located in El Paso County, with the remaining 3 in Teller County. It calculates that these providers would have to travel an additional 76.5 to 97.6 miles, or 71 to 93 minutes without traffic.

10 Farmers advises in Ewald’s case that Hanson’s office is in Denver County and that she would have to travel an additional 29.6 miles, or 32 minutes without traffic. The affidavit filed in the Hagans’ case references “the Farmers claims handlers” generally, without naming them. Identifying information is similarly absent in the affidavit filed in Mayfield’s case, which states only that “[n]one of the Farmers personnel who handled Plaintiff’s claim work in Boulder County.”

11 Farmers calculates that Merriman would have to travel an additional 87.9 miles, or 91 minutes without traffic, from his home.

12 In the Hagan action, Farmers lists New Body Chiropractic, Spine One, and Park Meadows Imaging. In the Ewald action, Farmers lists Koop Chiropractic, New Body Chiropractic, Swedish Medical Center, Spine One, Park Meadows Imaging, The Surgery Center at Lone Tree, and Colorado Spine and Orthopedic Rehabilitation Center. And in the Mayfield action, Farmers lists Memorial Hospital Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Regional Hospital, and Southwest Diagnostic.

13 This deficiency may stem from the fact that the affidavits focus on the plaintiffs and their medical treatment providers. Because they are not Farmers’ own witnesses and may not support Farmers’ theory of defense, Farmers may not be aware of the nature or materiality of their testimony or of potential admissibility issues. Even so, initial disclosures should permit Farmers to provide the trial courts with some guidance regarding what significance it understands the plaintiffs’ witnesses to have. Certainly, Farmers should be able to proffer information about anticipated defense witnesses.

14 See, e.g., Rollinson v. Pergament Acquisition Corp.,643 N.Y.S.2d 91, 91 (N.Y. App. Div. 1996) (noting that the court was “skeptical of any expression of concern by defendant for [the convenience of] plaintiff’s treating physician”); McConville v. Makita U.S.A., Inc., 612 N.Y.S.2d 31, 31 (N.Y. App. Div. 1994) (stating that the convenience of the plaintiff’s witnesses “should be a matter of plaintiff’s, not defendant’s, solicitude”).

15 Farmers’ own characterizations reveal the arbitrariness of a numbers-based approach. Farmers alternately labels a 44.9-mile difference in Mayfield’s case “enormous,” “huge,” and “great,” but then refers to a “mere” 12- and 29-minute difference.

16 Besides, CAPP would not apply to Mayfield’s action in either Boulder County or El Paso County. It is clear from his attorney’s affidavit that Mayfield filed his case in Boulder County District Court to avoid CAPP. But the transferee court, El Paso County Court, is not subject to CAPP either. See supra n.2.

These opinions are not final. They may be modified, changed or withdrawn in accordance with Rules 40 and 49 of the Colorado Appellate Rules. Changes to or modifications of these opinions resulting from any action taken by the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court are not incorporated here.


Lawsuits, Lawsuits, Lawsuits!!

There are so many lawsuits out there against Farmers Insurance and its subsidiaries. This is just one law firms list.  Farmers Insurance is the WORST insurance company in the United States.   -Admin

Below are just a few examples of lawsuits against Farmers Insurance successfully resolved by GJEL Accident Attorneys on behalf of their clients since 2003.


GJEL Accident attorney Andy Gillin represented a 70-year old man injured in a car accident while driving in eastern Alameda County. After being taken to Stanford Hospital with major internal injuries, he made a full recovery of his physical injuries. There was some question, however, as to whether or not the accident had “knocked him into old age” in terms of his vitality, mental functioning, and ongoing fears. Farmers ultimately paid $1,500,000 to settle the case.


In this case, GJEL represented a 22 year-old woman with severe back injuries from a car accident in a vehicle operated by her boyfriend. With police reports, medical evidence, and depositions GJEL showed that the plaintiff did not know about the driver’s intoxication at the time of the accident. GJEL proved that the three back surgeries which plaintiff had following the accident were the result of the collision, rather than any of her pre-existing injuries from her career as a teen skater. The plaintiff recovered in excess of $1.5 million from both State Farm and Farmers.


GJEL helped a chiropractor with severe neck and wrist injuries recover $575,000 following a rear end car accident on Highway 80, on the way to Lake Tahoe. The claimant in this case was insured by Farmers. GJEL Accident Attorneys worked with both of the surgeons who operated on the plaintiff to provide detailed testimony regarding the extent of the injuries, the need for treatment, and the causal relationship between the rear end accident and the need for those surgeries.


GJEL Accident Attorneys recovered $270,000 in a claim involving serious burn injuries to a 23 year-old man. The young man suffered burns to his torso, arms and neck when friends at a barbecue threw denatured alcohol directly onto an open flame. By using a consulting psychologist and also arranging and assisting with a face-to-face meeting between the young man and a Farmers representing, GJEL Accident Attorneys helped communicate the devastating emotional and physical impact of the burn injuries.


In this case from 2003, GJEL attorney Jim Larsen represented the victim of a dog bite in Manteca. Jim Larsen recovered $100,000 for our client in this insurance settlement with Farmers.


GJEL attorneys represented the victim of this auto vs. motorcycle accident that occurred on Mines Road in Pleasanton, California. The accident caused our client to suffer head injuries, broken shoulder, and broken ankle. Although the defendants claimed that our client was speeding, GJEL attorneys used expert testimony to negate this claim. Farmers Insurance paid our client $100,000 to settle his claim.


This was a two-vehicle accident that took place in rural California.  Our client suffered from back pain and dental injuries.  Her insurance company was Mercury and the company for the other person was Farmers.  We were able to settle this case without litigation in the amount of $100,000.

  • This site is published as a public service to warn consumers of the business practices of Farmers Insurance Group. This site is in no way affiliated, connected with, or sponsored by Farmers Insurance Group or any of its subsidiaries. All content and information on this site is my opinion or the opinion of those referenced. This site is for educational purposes. The information in the Forums or from other people, blogs or web sites are provided at face value, we have not confirmed any of these stories/opinions. Copyrighted material has been used for non-commercial purposes only. By accessing this site you agree to immediately contact us to report any incorrect data or misrepresentations of facts. We are not responsible for accuracy in story content. Individuals, news organizations, companies or government agencies referenced on this web site do not endorse this web site and are not affiliated with it (copyrighted materials used without permission). Links to any other sites are for informational purposes only and should not be considered an endorsement of the site. Copyright 2015 - - All Rights Reserved