In Dickson v. American Bankers, the 8th Circuit reversed a summary judgment for the insureds. The insureds house and land was damaged by flooding in Bismark, North Dakota. Flood debris was left on the land when the waters receded, and it cost the Dicksons about $50,000 to clear off the debris. The Dicksons had a SFIP – a standard flood insurance policy; written through American Bankers as a WYO – write your own — policy. An adjuster hired to adjust the claim told the Dicksons that debris removal wasn’t covered, but the Dicksons submitted invoices for reimbursement for debris clean up anyway. The adjuster prepared a proof of loss for the Dicksons and sent it to them. The proof of loss omitted the debris removal claim. Eventually, the Dicksons signed and submitted the proof of loss form, and were promptly reimbursed by American Bankers. Then, the Dicksons’ claim for debris removal was denied. No proof of loss for debris removal was ever filed by the Dicksons, and there was a requirement that all claims be filed by a certain date. Instead, the Dicksons sued American Bankers, seeking a declaration that the policy covered debris removal.
The district court recognized the Dicksons failed to file a proof of loss but granted the Dicksons judgment anyway because of American Bankers affirmative misconduct in preparing the proof of loss without the debris removal claim, and telling the Dicksons they could add the debris removal claim later. But this was not misconduct — the Dicksons had the duty to fill out the proof of loss, not the adjuster or insurance company. And the Dicksons failure to seek debris removal in the original proof of loss or in a timely supplemental proof of loss precludes the claim. There can be no estoppel against the government to pay money from the federal treasury. The failure to file a proof of loss for the debris removal is a complete bar to recovery. Summary judgment to the Dicksons was reversed, and the case was sent back with directions to enter judgment for American Bankers.