Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division
from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County 16SL-CC03184
Honorable Dean P. Waldemer
P. PAGE, PRESIDING JUDGE
Indemnity Company ("Allstate") appeals the trial
court's judgment denying its request to disqualify
Jeffrey Pellet as an appraiser. We affirm.
insured the property of Steven and Kathy Gaworski ("the
Gaworskis") located at 11943 Homestead Avenue in St.
Louis. The policy covered certain risks, including hail
damage. In July 2015, the property sustained a partial loss
by hail. The Gaworskis notified Allstate of the loss and
opened a claim. An Allstate adjuster inspected the property
and presented an estimate of damages. The Gaworskis rejected
the estimate and invoked the appraisal clause of their
policy, which provided in relevant part, if the parties could
not agree to an amount of loss, upon written demand of either
party each was required to select a "competent and
disinterested" appraiser. The appraisers were then to
select an umpire to evaluate each appraisal and make an
award. If the appraisers could not agree upon an umpire, one
was to be chosen by the court upon request of either party.
Gaworskis hired Featherfall Restoration
("Featherfall") to repair the damage to their
property. In return for performing the work, the Gaworskis
assigned their right to any insurance claim against Allstate
to Featherfall. The Gaworskis appointed Jeffrey Pellet
("Pellet") as their appraiser. Allstate initially
appointed its own appraiser; however, following Pellet's
objection to the original appraiser's objectivity and
qualifications, Allstate appointed a second appraiser.
Following several emails, Allstate's second appraiser
proposed potential umpires. Following the proposal, Allstate
filed a petition for court appointment of an umpire and
motion to strike Pellet as appraiser. The court ultimately
appointed an umpire but denied Allstate's motion to
disqualify Pellet. This appeal follows.
sole point on appeal, Allstate claims the trial court erred
in denying is motion to strike Pellet because he is not a
"disinterested" appraiser as required by the law
and the insurance contract.
review the trial court's decision in the present case
de novo, as the petition to appoint the umpire and
disqualify Pellet is considered an action in equity.
Schwartzman v. London & Lancashire Fire Ins. Co.,
Lim., of Liverpool, England, 2 S.W.2d 593, 595 (Mo. banc
1927) (internal citations omitted).
parties agree the law regarding impartiality of an appraiser
is well-settled, although scarce and somewhat outdated. Both
parties rely on Orr v. Farmers Mut. Hail Ins. Co. of
Mo., 201 S.W.2d 952, 957 (Mo. 1947) and TAMKO Bldg.
Products, Inc. v. Factual Mut. Ins. Co., 890 F.Supp.2d
1129 (E.D. Mo. 2012) for the proposition that under Missouri
law, if the insurance policy states the parties are to
determine the amount of loss by appraisal, the individuals
selected as appraisers must not be interested, biased, or
the parties agree this is the applicable standard, each party
has a different interpretation of what constitutes bias or
interest. The trial court concluded although there was
evidence of Pellet's "unprofessional conduct,
aggressive rhetoric, and ominous emails, " there was
insufficient evidence of a disqualifying financial interest
on his part. Allstate contends this conclusion was erroneous
because Pellet had an ongoing relationship with Featherfall,
the company hired by the Gaworskis to perform the repairs on
their property and to which the Gaworskis had assigned their
interest in any claim against Allstate. This argument is not
supported in the record before us.
email to counsel for Allstate, Pellet specifically states he
does not hold any interest in the financial outcome of this
case. In addition, Casey Quinn Hale, the owner and operations
manager of Featherfall, submitted an affidavit swearing that
Pellet did not have any contract, oral or written, with
Featherfall to furnish future appraisal work to him. The
affidavit further states Pellet is not the sole appraiser for
Featherfall and the company maintains a list of ...