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- Farmers Insurance Hit With Class Action Lawsuit After LA Wildfire
- 21st Century Insurance (4)
- Bad Faith (7)
- Bristol West Insurance (1)
- Farmers Insurance (21)
- Farmers Insurance Agent (5)
- Farmers Insurance Complaints (9)
- Farmers Insurance Employee (7)
- Farmers Insurance Group (13)
- Farmers Insurance Lawsuits (12)
- Farmers Insurance Reviews (6)
- Foremost Insurance Group (1)
- Mid-Century Insurance (1)
- Uncategorized (2)
- Zurich Financial Services (1)
Complaint, after complaint, after complaint! This company is the WORST! Avoid Farmers Insurance Group! Seventy-nine percent of reviews submitted to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Farmers Insurance Group are NEGATIVE! Farmers Insurance had 213 complaints in the last year and 643 complaints in the last three years! Do you want to deal with a company with that many consistent complaints? Read some of the complaints below.
“I have been a customer with farmers for auto and home for 5 years. Overall thought it was pretty good until i filed my very first auto claim. Van in shopping area during a very windy day while i was indoor shopping. Upon returning noticed mild damages on bumper and both van doors. I am not sure as to cause possible carts, possible vandalism, don’t know and of course no witnesses. Claims agent came to look at the car and stated these are 3 separate claims and 3 deductibles. Even if same time can’t be on same claim. I was in shock and still am. Will pay for it cash and switch to another insurer who doesn’t play these games to save money. Heed the Warning! ”
“Hello to whom may this concern , FARMERS is the worst insurance to have , not only they charge you for fees that have no meaning to the business except for the fact that they just want to collect as much money out of you once you sign up with them but when it comes down to submit an accident they will NOT inform you properly on how to pursue the claim so it gets taken care of asap and more importantly properly . I was involved in a minor incident and the other party had State Farm and I’m in the process of switching insurance due to the fact that FARMERS is withholding my deductible with no legit reason on why they are holding my refund , they informed me that the deductible was going to be refunded . This has been going on for two weeks now I just got off the phone with STATE FARM and they informed me that everything was taken care of and paid to my insurance (FARMERS) with no complications . Now I try to get a hold of my agent and she is avoiding my calls . If you need ANY information please feel free to contact me .”
“I have 3 BMW’s covered with “storage insurance”…one vehicle was parked in my yard and a motorist drives into my yard and crashes into my vehicle (hit and run)..Farmers says they don’t cover that..PATHETIC..If you have Farmers and or are considering them, DO NOT! The best is that one Farmers representative said it”s covered but when the adjuster called, they informed me they do not. People need to band together and demand insurance scammers like Farmers change their rotten ways! ”
“this company practices what is called price optimization – they slowly raise rates hoping you wont notice … ok so i payed my bill without doing due diligence in terms of my premiums – lets this be a warning to ALL insurance customers – i have no excuse – their own web site gave me a cheaper quote than my bill was … the problem is the customer service here – in 3 years of having farmers insurance i never have been able to contact my agent … most of the time i would get frustrated and just call the 800 number – but this time i was told [ two times in fact because i tried again] that i had to talk to my agent – you cannot cancel from the 800 number … well i never could and still never have been able to contact my agent …. they called me when they thought i was overdue on my payment and wanted their money … a collection agency im not quite sure who it was [wasnt the agency] … but farmers billed me for the time – 49 dollars in fact – for 23 days over that i could not get a hold of them ….. so ok farmers you got a few extra bucks outta me – and in return gave me lousy customer service — im at least gonna let everyone know i can about my farmers experience – was it worth it ? ”
We have been in the same home for 15+ years. As a current farmers customer I now realize it’s the worst mistake of my life. We had a house fire. Due to the sot and ash still in the air, my father has now been in the er twice. Continuing to drag your feet with the “farmers suggested” restoration company is seriously taking a tole on my family. Not only have you proven to care nothing about your long term loyal customers, you have shown me that your company was the worst mistake of my life.”
“I have been paying for insurance for my rental home through Foremost/Farmers for 5 years. Never one late payment in that time. I had some renters who did significant damage to my rental home. I met with my agent and he initially said they would cover $8000 dollars for the damage. That $8000 turned into $2000 once I received a copy of his report. He then called me a week later and said that they reviewed the policy again and found a loophole to where they didn’t have to pay anything. They put a stop payment on the check and now refuse to return my phone calls. I had a $35000 policy and they are giving me nothing. Please do not do business with this company. They are frauds and thieves. The only good news is that after I contacted an attorney, he says that I have an extremely strong case. Hopefully I can get some of the money back that I have paid them for 5 years.
“I called my agent about my car being broken into. They informed me that I had $1000.00 deductible (OK that was my choice) but then said I might want to think about not filing a claim because I would lose my “no claim discount.” Now that is “not the same as penalizing you for using your insurance, it is just losing your discount. Really? It is EXACTLY the same thing. Nothing like getting ripped off twice. This company is just as much a thief as the guy who broke into my car. We’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars over the last 20-something years without making a claim. The first time we have one? We are told not to submit and penalized.”
“The rates as quoted did not match the premium charged at times. The cancellation process is an Unfair Trade Practice in that when they are notified in writing and through customer service of a cancellation of insurance coverage, they do not follow instructions and seek to further delay the cancellation causing additional charges to consumers.”
“I was only 2 weeks with this company then canceled my auto insurance they did not return my money at all then when I call them they start to argue with me that I still have to pay $14 more because they have a cancellation fees. It’s ridiculous I’m not recommend this company be careful read first everything then sign paper . This company it’s just taking advantage from people . Stay a way far from this company . I’m from Arizona.when I call here the agency than pay for auto insurance but the statement shows 3 diferant address one in Mesa.Az other at Pasadena.CA and the tired address shows at Hollywood.FL. Foremost insurance.coast national insurance .bristol west insurance .stay Farr from this company’s ..I’m not recommend”
“I’m not one to complain about a company, but this experience from start to finish has been awful. When my Fiance and I Went to farmers we had a great experience with the local agent he was nice and helpful. That’s where the good ends. To get a hold of said agent you had to call and leave a message and wait for a call back. Most the time it was quicker just to drop into his office. When we started our auto insurance policy, it took almost 3 months before the payments started getting pulled from my account, even though we set up direct deposit. That was the first nightmare, the second nightmare was when we tried to cancel the auto policy. We put my Fiance’s name on the auto policy since he had homeowners insurance through them as well. Well he was out of state working, when we found a new company with the same policy, but half the price. So when I called to cancel the girl I talked to didn’t say anything to me about the main policy holder needed to be the one to cancel not me. She only told me to fill out the email they were going to send me and to send it back and it’d be canceled. I did that and checked a few days later to find the policy wasn’t canceled. No one sent me an email to explain that it had to be my fiance who sent the email. So when I called to find out what was going on they worked really hard to help me, which was great. Unfortunately since they didn’t tell me the first time about the cancellation terms I was too late to get a stop payment on my account so I wouldn’t have the bill taken out. So I waited a week and half to call to check and see when I was going to get my money back from them. Only to find out that they are mailing me the check instead of just returning the money to my account. And the catch to getting the check was that they didn’t schedule my refund to be sent out till 2 weeks after I finally got the account canceled. I got sent to billing via the customer service and was told that they could cancel my check and have my money back to me in 3-5 business days and then it’d be a few days after that to get the bank to process the deposit. She also told me to call back in 5 to 6 days to make sure they had processed everything for me. I called back 5 days later to get an answer of there is nothing on your account about cancelling the check and sending the money directly to your account. And when the girl tried to figure out why they didn’t do what the said they would, she found out that they can’t just cancel to check. And that it would take 7-10 days to cancel it and another 5-10 to get me the direct deposit, plus however long it took my bank to process the deposit. So almost 4 weeks later from my policy cancellation, I’m still without my refund. Which wouldn’t be a huge problem if I wasn’t going to be on vacation out of town for a whole week with a friend, and now have barely any money to pay for the trip. ”
“I had a policy for 27 years with foremost insurance company part of farmers insurance. they insured my mobile home. I made a claim for water damage, first claim in 27 years. It was turned down, they claim it was old age rot when you can plainly see it is water damage and you can feel the water in the floor. do not do business with a company that lies ”
Farmers Insurance gets worst rating (1 star out of 5) by many ConsumerAffairs.com users! Here are some of their comments:
“Our 2nd bad experience with Farmers. This time we were hit by a Farmers insured driver. Damage to our car and back injuries. The claims process has been a colossal joke. The claims agent is lazy, disrespectful and untrustworthy. They are trying to cheap their way out. It’s been five weeks with no resolution. However, they did offer us a rental car… which we don’t want or need! Helps me understand why insurance rates are through the roof because they try to take advantage of people which forces consulting with an attorney. Had they just settled fairly, it would have cost them $5,000. Now, we will demand much, much more. Farmers – yeah, they’ve seen a thing or two, but don’t know jack squat.”
“We trusted our agent by telling him we bought a new Mercedes S550 and needed to add it to our coverage. 2 years later a rock crashed the windshield and the agent we trusted saved us a couple of dollars by making our comprehensive coverage deductible $1,250.00. WOW! Then on top of that they tell us if we don’t take it to an aftermarket repair shop they select they may not pay the complete cost after we pay our deductible. They take incompetence and greed to a whole new level. Too bad there is not a 0 Star rating.”
“I will never ever get an insurance through Farmers or recommend it to any one else for that matter. What a lousy business. I got in an car accident earlier this year, car was total loss and I sold it to a junk yard. I notified the agent but somehow she didn’t cancel my insurance and I was paying it for months. When I noticed it I contacted the agent and to get my money reimbursed. After months of asking me for all kind of evidence that I really don’t own the vehicle anymore (they saw the pictures and knew that the car was total loss) now they simply refuse to refund. I provided them the name of the junk yard AND more importantly hard evidence: the notice of transfer and reliability of the DMV (that states I don’t own the car any more and from which date). That’s not enough for Farmers. What a despicable way of doing business and customer service!”
“Recently totaled my 2003 Z71 Tahoe. The mileage on my vehicle with just 190K, it was in immaculate condition with no issues. Insurance came back and told me they were willing to give me $4500 for it. This is absolutely ludicrous as of this particular vehicle will cost about $9500. For what they are offering me, I cannot even replace my vehicle with the same exact vehicle in the same condition. Their offer will not even cover half of what they’re going for. They say they are going based off blue book value but would consider upping it if I can show them proof that these vehicles go for more in this area.
I have sent them countless examples of what they go for in this area but they will not consider them because they are either one your new were one year older. Apparently 2003 Z71 Tahoes are rare in this area. I guess it doesn’t matter that 2002 models just like it are going for well over what they are even offering me for mine and those are in bad condition. This is absolutely ridiculous. I pay to be covered and I get nothing in return.”
“I had someone rear end my 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee over a year ago. Farmers paid for the repair with no problem. However, under Oregon law you are also entitled to receive compensation for “Diminished Value”. An accident will lower the resale value of your vehicle no matter how beautifully the repair was made. That’s diminished value (or DV) and you are entitled to compensation for that additional loss. I had two DV estimates done by reputable companies and they both estimated that loss at over $5,000. You pay these companies to do this estimate and you have no idea what they value your loss at until you pay them and see the report. They get paid the same either way so there is no incentive for them to lie or inflate the value of the loss. It’s an honest assessment. Farmers came back and said their expert valued the same loss at no more than $2,000. I refused the $2,000 and they came back with $2,250.
I complained that my vehicle suffered structural damage and that $2,250 is ridiculous. They came back with $2,500. This has been dragging on for over a year now and their offer is still less than half of the estimated loss. I chose Farmers because I believed they were a reputable company. This is not what I would have expected from them at all. Their adjuster even had the audacity to tell me my accident wasn’t showing on CarFax and suggested I not mention the accident during a sale. I’m required by law to tell the buyer about this accident, especially since it involved structural damage! In fact, if I sold it to a dealership, I’d be required to sign a document of disclosure. Are these the actions of a reputable company? Is this the kind of service you would want to experience? Be your own judge. What good is paying for insurance if they treat you like this when you need them? Do yourself a favor and steer clear off Farmers.”
“Farmers Insurance has been the worst experience of my life. I was sideswiped by one of their client who was ticketed for the accident. I was traveling eastbound in the curb lane at the posted speed limit. The Farmers client made an illegal left turn into the center lane of the same street as me and then abruptly made a lane change into my rear driver’s side door. The Farmer’s customer raced through an expired left turn arrow and lost control of his vehicle due to excessive speed. Farmers lied and said I turned right on red which is patently false. What happened was their client made an illegal left turn AFTER the left turn arrow expired and then about 5-6 car lengths down the road struck my vehicle. Suffice it to say, Farmers Insurance are liars, cheats and swindlers.
I would NEVER recommend Farmers Insurance to anyone. Lies lead to more lies. Small lies become big lies. If Farmers is so willing to tell lies then they will lie to their victims and ultimately their customers. Farmers Insurance company cannot be trusted and pray that you never have to deal with them. They are crooked and some of the most dishonest and untrustworthy people on earth. BUYER BEWARE!!”
“I have had auto/home insurance with Farmers for 15 years. With few if any claims I have been responsible for. In all auto related issues concerning disputes my Farmers agent in Santa Rosa consistently took the side of the company. The customer service has gone downhill over the 15 years. Recently my agent informed me I would be paying a increased premium for my Subaru WRX 5door hatchback. He said it was in a “performance/sports car” category. When I requested Farmers policy documentation details indicating a list of “performance/sports car” data it was not provided. When I contacted the Farmers District Manager he also refused to provide the information. I have an outstanding driving record. Assigning an extra insurance premium on my Subaru has nothing to do with my record. Cars do not break the law! People do! The “performance/sports car” category has nothing to do with my driving record.
Farmers Auto Insurance created that category for the purpose of increasing profits for the company. I requested documentation that Farmers would have to provide to the California Department of Insurance in approval of the “performance/sports car” category. Farmers failed to respond or provide information. I now have a formal complaint filed with the Ca. Dept. of Insurance against Farmers for non-disclosure and being in violation of corporate law related to lack of transparency. I would suggest that people never do business with Farmers Auto Insurance company. The complaints against them are substantial.”
“I’ve been working with Michael ** from Farmers Insurance for the last 2 weeks and HE’S THE ABSOLUTE WORST. 2 weeks ago one of their insured hit me when he ran a stop sign at an intersection, doing significant damage to my car. The front passenger side was completely bent in, leaving a big gap with an air bubble. I called them and asked them to send someone over to do an estimate and Michael told me they don’t usually do that unless the car isn’t driveable, that I’d have to go to a shop and have them do it. I tried to explain to him that the car ISN’T driveable, that I just don’t feel safe driving it in its current state but he just didn’t care and insisted I had to bring it to a shop to get an estimate.
I finally found a shop that could accommodate my schedule and location and they took a look at my car and told me I need to call Farmers and tell them to give me a rental, because this car isn’t driveable. Only then did Michael set me up with a rental. After I got my rental from Enterprise, they told me that Farmers refused to cover my damage waiver on the rental because my insurance already covers a lot of that. I called Michael and asked that Farmers cover my damage waiver and surprise surprise, he said they don’t usually do that. I pointed out that the accident was 100% their driver’s fault and he said OK, they’ll cover my damage waiver but first I have to get my insurance company to fax them a copy of my declaration.
I spent the next 2 days running around making sure all the appropriate documents were sent over (with Michael giving me the runaround repeatedly), and finally he called me and informed me that they won’t be covering my damage waiver because my own insurance company already covers a lot of that. I’m so appalled at the way Farmers has treated me. They’ve just made everything as difficult for me as possible, and Michael is all smiles and politeness on the surface but really has no sense of decency whatsoever. He’s not even professional by auto-insurance standards. (And that’s saying a lot!) If I incur any financial damages from this experience I fully plan to sue them.”
“Had a house fire. 2 days later I still have not heard from my insurance adjuster. I have called the claims # to start a claim, I was told the ins. adjuster would contact me asap… This never happened, so I call again and get the same runaround. Call a 3rd time and they give me more runaround and tell me I have to call the adjuster myself, so I did, no answer and no callback!!! I have no power in my home. I’m living wherever I can, even staying in my house with all the bad smoke fumes etc… I cannot believe that Farmers ins. has put this off like they have, for goodness sakes!!! It is my home. I have insurance and cannot get an adjuster to come here and do what is needed to get my home back in order!!! For shame on this company.”
“Farmers ins keeps jacking up your rates. Had no claims. Save over 100$ per month on car ins by switching away for them. If you’re with Farmers I’d shop around now. If thinking about Farmers ins they will double your payments in a matter of year or two. I have been driving over 30 yrs. Never had a company take advantage of me so bad.”
Reviews from: https://www.consumeraffairs.com/insurance/farmers_auto.html
By Brandon Lowrey
A Los Angeles homeowner hit a Farmers Insurance Co. unit with a proposed class action in California state court on Wednesday alleging the insurers illegally limited coverage of wildfire smoke damage by changing policies without adequate notice and saying it was “not actual fire damage.”
Plaintiff Ismael Frias, a resident of the Los Angeles suburb of Sylmar, said that Mid-Century Insurance Co. applied a $5,000 “Wildfire Smoke Sublimit” to his claim under his homeowner’s insurance policy. Mid-Century allegedly added the sublimit to the policy when Frias renewed in March, but didn’t clearly notify him. Frias also contends that the sublimit violates California a insurance law standardizing fire damage policies.
“The purported $5,000.00 Wildfire Smoke Sublimit violates Insurance Code section 2071, is not reflected on the declarations Page, is not plain, clear and conspicuous, and is unenforceable,” Frias argued.
Frias made a claim for damages he suffered during a wildfire on July 23. On that date, the massive Sand Canyon Fire was raging through the mountains north of Sylmar. The fire ultimately scorched nearly 65 square miles before it was contained in August, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
In September, Frias received a letter from Mid-Century saying the damage to his home wasn’t “actual fire damage” and thus was subject to the $5,000 sublimit, according to the complaint.
Frias alleges claims of breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violation of California’s Unfair Competition Act.
Frias seeks to establish a class of California homeowners who had policies containing the wildfire smoke sublimit and who had submitted claims for wildfire odor, soot, smoke, char or ash damage. He also seeks compensatory and punitive damages, along with attorney’s fees, according to the complaint.
“As a result of defendants’ conduct, plaintiff and members of the class and subclass have been damaged, including but not limited to, paying insurance premiums for coverage rendered illusory by the unlawful Wildfire Smoke Sublimit,” the complaint said.
Representatives for Farmers did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Frias is represented by Joshua H. Haffner and Levi M. Plesset of Haffner Law PC.
Counsel information for the defendants was not immediately available.
The case is Ismael Frias et al. v. Farmers Group Inc. et al., case number BC638626, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.
—Editing by Joe Phalon.
AUSTIN — A judge has tentatively approved a settlement between Farmers Insurance and the state that would resolve a long-running lawsuit alleging massive overcharges by the company in its homeowners policies more than a dozen years ago.
State District Judge Scott Jenkins of Travis County said Thursday that he would sign an order approving the settlement, which calls for refunds to Farmers customers of $84.4 million.
That comes on top of a 6.8 percent reduction in homeowners rates already implemented, for a total settlement of $127.5 million.
“I would like to get this done,” Jenkins said of the case, which has been in the courts since late 2002. That’s when Farmers and the Texas Department of Insurance first negotiated a settlement to state allegations against one of the largest property insurers.
Texas Insurance Commissioner David Mattax called the agreement “a significant step toward returning funds to deserving Farmers customers.” But consumer groups attacked the proposal as a giveaway to Farmers.
“This deal lets Farmers pocket millions of dollars in overcharges without paying interest on its wrongfully collected premiums,” said Alex Winslow of Texas Watch, which closely follows insurance issues. “The bottom line is that Farmers customers are left holding the bag.”
Winslow said the agreement “lets Farmers off the hook for millions in excessive premiums.” Testimony during two days of hearings that concluded Thursday indicated that while Farmers overcharged policyholders by 12 percent to 18 percent, the settlement required it to return only 6.8 percent.
Mattax said during the hearing that he was unable to secure a larger refund from Farmers during the negotiations.
Farmers does not admit wrongdoing under the settlement, and company officials indicated they wanted to resolve the case after several years in court.
As many as 1.8 million current and former Farmers policyholders could be affected by the settlement, but no refund checks or premium credits will be issued before a “final fairness” hearing in the class action case on Feb. 1. Three intervenors in the case are opposed to the settlement and indicated they will raise objections during that hearing.
Policyholders who are affected were given less comprehensive policies in the wake of the mold crisis that rocked the Texas home insurance market more than a decade ago. Premiums on those policies were not decreased to reflect the reduced coverage, according to the state.
Other affected customers were not given premium reductions for discounts they were entitled to. Still other policyholders paid excessive premiums for auto and home insurance because of inaccurate credit reports used by the company.
Credit reports are used by most insurers in determining premiums their customers pay.
The case was the first class action insurance lawsuit ever filed by the attorney general’s office. Farmers countersued, insisting it did nothing wrong.
However, late in 2002, Farmers conceded and agreed to a package of refunds, rate reductions and premium credits that was similar to what Judge Jenkins approved Thursday.
Follow Terrence Stutz on Twitter at @t_stutz.
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.
“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
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
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
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.
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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
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
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
Farmers Insurance Exchange.
Rules Made Absolute
January 26, 2015
Attorneys for Plaintiffs Deanna Hagan, Shane Hagan, and Cynthia Ewald:
Taussig & Taussig, P.C.
John E. Taussig, III
Dustin E. Bergman
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
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.
¶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)).
¶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
¶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, https://maps.google.com (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 http://www.courts.state.co.us/userfiles/file/Court_Probation/Educational_Resources/CAPP%20Overview%20R8%2014%20(FINAL).pdf (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.