Rio Oso couple appeals mite-infestation lawsuit ruling
A Rio Oso couple is appealing a federal judge's decision dismissing their lawsuit against two insurance companies.
The issue? A mite infestation.
Daryl and Shirley Gregory sued Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. and Allied Property and Casualty Insurance in Sutter County Superior Court in 2009, alleging breach of contract. The case was transferred to federal court in Sacramento in 2010.
Their home sits on Gallagher Road. In 2008, according to court records, the Gregorys filed a claim with their insurer, alleging the house was infested with mites. The couple blamed nearby birds and chickens.
"Contrary to the commercial, Nationwide is not on your side," the Gregorys' lawyer, Orrin Grover, said of how Nationwide handled the claim. Allied is affiliated with Nationwide.
"Nationwide believes the court's decision speaks for itself," said company spokeswoman Nancy Smeltzer.
In a declaration, Shirley Gregory said her family "began to experience extreme discomfort in our home and around our property. This took the form of itching, rashes and other skin breakdown. My husband, myself, my daughter Gwen all suffered the symptoms."
The Gregorys "said they burned furnishings, carpet, and clothing in a futile attempt to combat the infestation," US District Judge Kimberly Muller wrote in her December decision tossing out their suit.
Muller noted that Shirley Gregory sought confirmation about the mite problem from the University of California, Davis, Sutter-Yuba Mosquito Vector Control District, Sutter County Department of Agriculture, two pest control companies, a number of doctors and others. None could find a mite problem.
"The problem is that there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of kinds of mites," Grover said.
None of the experts the Gregorys consulted performed a "microscopic examination," he said.
The judge said the Gregorys' insurance policy excluded coverage for "vermin."
Mites "may be less notorious as a source of discomfort and property destruction, but in an objectively reasonable reading of the (insurance) policy, mites are no more covered than other troublesome creatures. Plaintiffs knew the insurance policy contained exclusions," the judge wrote.
The Gregorys offered "only an unsubstantiated allegation of a mite infestation," the judge wrote.
Muller ruled for the insurance companies and dismissed the case, which the Gregorys appealed.
Earlier this month, she ruled that the Gregorys owe the insurance companies $1,813 in court costs.