To be considered material, a statement need not relate to a matter or subject which ultimately proves to be decisive or significant in the ultimate disposition of the claim; rather, it is sufficient if the statement is reasonably relevant to the insurance company's investigation of a claim.
Defendant insurer refused to indemnify plaintiff insured after he claimed that he lost jewelry which he allegedly owned and that had been insured by defendant's insurance policy. Defendant argued that plaintiff's claim was fraudulent and that he had knowingly made false statements about facts that were material to his claim. The jury held for plaintiff in the amount of $ 267,000 plus interest. The trial court denied defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or in the alternative, for a new trial. The judgment denying insurer's motion for a new trial was reversed, and the case was remanded for retrial by a new jury.
Did the trial court abuse its discretion when it denied defendant's motion for a new trial?
The court held that the jury's verdict was against the great weight of the evidence because the evidence indicated overwhelmingly that plaintiff knew that he was giving false testimony at a formal examination while under oath. Therefore, the trial court abused its discretion in denying defendant's motion for a new trial, and remanded the case for retrial by a new jury.