Mo. Court Awards $800,000 to Auto Fraud Defendants

Two Missouri people acquitted of automobile insurance fraud were awarded $800,000 in damages for malicious prosecution of their case.

A Jackson County Circuit Court jury on Tuesday ruled that State Farm Insurance and the National Insurance Crime Bureau must pay Jennie Hampton and her brother-in-law Marvin Vail $400,000 each.

The jury also found that Hampton and Vail were entitled to punitive damages for their ordeal that started in December 1997 when Hampton’s Toyota 4Runner was reported stolen and found burned in rural Miami County, Kan., according to the Kansas City Star.

State Farm refused to pay Hampton’s $10,000 claim on the vehicle, and through the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the case was forwarded to prosecutors in Johnson County, where Hampton and Vail were charged with felony insurance fraud.

The charges alleged that Hampton had talked about engine problems and was looking for a new engine a few weeks before the theft. Vail was accused of towing the vehicle to the site where it was burned.

A jury acquitted Hampton and Vail of the charges in May 2001.

Spokesmen from both the NICB and State Farm declined to comment on the case pending further legal action.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International