LOS ANGELES — A Superior Court jury Tuesday awarded $9 million in punitive damages to a former Farmers Insurance adjuster who alleged he was fired for refusing to underpay claims after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, his attorney said.
Kermith Sonnier also was awarded $1.46 million in compensatory damages after jurors found supervisors unfairly fired him for resisting Farmers directives to reduce loss estimates on quake-damaged homes, attorney Steven Ball said.
"Farmers argued that Mr. Sonnier was let go because the work was running out," Ball said. "But the evidence showed Farmers . . . has kept every other adjuster who didn't complain about their orders from Farmers."
Officials with Farmers could not immediately be reached for comment.
Sonnier worked as a commercial claims adjuster for Farmers from January 1994 to August 1997 and handled some of the largest quake claims, including apartment complexes and condominiums, Ball said.
But as payouts mounted, Ball said, Farmers officials started to put pressure on its adjusters to lower estimates of losses.