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Ninth Circuit Discusses Burden of Proof in Arson Defense on Insurance Claim
NINTH CIRCUIT DISCUSSES BURDEN OF PROOF IN ARSON DEFENSE ON INSURANCE CLAIM
In Jazzabi v. Allstate Ins. Co. (Jan. 29, 2002) No. 00-35686, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed a jury verdict ultimately for a homeowner. The case arose out of a fire at the plaintiff's house. At trial, the parties stipulated that arson had caused the fire but the only question was whether the homeowner was the arsonist.
Hence, the case was tried based on the insurer's affirmative defense of arson. The court ultimately held that affirmative defenses present ultimate issues because they frequently determine whether the defendant will be liable. Accordingly, requiring civil juries to come to unanimous agreement regarding affirmative defenses-either unanimous agreement that the defendant has failed to prove the defense or unanimous agreement that the defendant has proved the defense is consistent with the Seventh Amendment. Because the court's instructions were not clear the case was remanded for further action.
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