SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A Santa Fe jury has awarded a New Mexico family a $36,000,000 settlement against State Farm, after determining the insurance provider tried to short the family on a claim by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Jurors decided that State Farm engaged in deceptive business practices, after one of their clients, Andrea Lovato, died in a car crash back in 2017, with her four-year-old nephew in the back seat, who survived.

“There was a car coming at her 70-miles-per-hour in her lane forcing her to make a split-second decision, that ended up being a wrong decision,” said Shane Maier, attorney for Gauthier & Maier Law Firm, which represented the family in trial.

Story continues below

A few days before Lovato died, she changed her insurance policy amount, due to her car getting stolen and damaged just weeks prior. She increased her $25,000 coverage policy to $1,000,000 for an extra $30 a month.

“They saw somebody who just went through an insurance claim, saw the benefit of insurance, and upsold her to a higher policy,” Maier said.

State Farm, after hearing of Lovato’s death reverted her policy amount in their system back to the original $25,000. Attorneys representing the family argued State Farm never notified or got approval from remaining policyholders on the account to make that decision. During trial, attorneys for State Farm argued that Lovato was one hundred percent at fault for the crash, and that the policy was issued by mistake.

“Effectively, the insurance company were saying that, one, their insurers was at fault for the accident and blaming her, but disregarding evidence showing that the other driver had partial fault in causing the accident,” said Maier.

The only evidence of this million-dollar policy was a copy it mailed out by State Farm to the home address. It was later found by Lovato’s mother, showing that Lovato did indeed purchase the new policy. “They would have gotten away with this conduct, because only person that knew she purchased it was dead,” explained Maier.

Jurors awarded the family $12,000,000 in damages for the crash, and another $24,000,000 for breach of contract damages.

A spokesperson for State Farm said in a statement, “We strongly believe we upheld and honored our commitment to our customers and empathize with the family who suffered a great personal loss. We are disappointed by the jury’s decision, respectfully disagree with it, and will explore all available legal options, including appealing the verdict.”

Sevag A. Sarkissian, State Farm

Lovato’s nephew was rescued from the crash but suffered serious injuries and needed abdominal surgery due to internal bleeding. He was present at the trial.

“It felt crazy hearing the words coming out of State Farm’s side, acting like what they did was totally normal and okay,” Maier added. “That an insurance carrier can change your policy if it believes it’s an error and have no duty to notify you of it. No duty to notify your family after you’re passed away.”