A professional photographer is suing Farmers Insurance Exchange, alleging the company breached its obligations to compensate him under a policy for 2,000 images stolen along with his equipment in 2020.

Edward Michaels brought the lawsuit Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. A Farmers Insurance representative could not be immediately reached.

Michaels has been a professional photographer for more than four decades, although he has been retired for the most part in recent years, according to his suit. He does not actively sell prints of his photography, but some prints of his work can be bought for hundreds of dollars from the art website Saatchi.com, according to the suit.

In January 2020, thieves stole Michaels’ camera, lenses, computer and his external with more than 2,000 digital image files representing much of his life’s work, none of which were recovered, the suit states.

Michaels bought a policy from Farmers in February 2018 with $75,000 in coverage and was assured by an agent that his digital images were covered, according to the suit.

Concerned that the $75,000 coverage was insufficient, Michaels contacted the same agent and later agreed to a premium hike that would increase his electronic equipment and date coverage to $125,000, the suit states.

Michaels made a claim after the theft of his equipment and images, the suit states.

“However, in an astounding exercise of bad faith, Farmers informed (Michaels) that although the loss of his digital image files was covered by the $125,000 electronic media coverage that Farmers had specifically sold him for the purpose of covering his digital images, Farmers had determined that the value of (his) 2,000 digital image files was zero,” the suit states.

Michaels was “shocked” and wrote Farmers Group Inc. CEO Jeffrey J. Dailey, the suit states. Daiiley responded by thanking Michaels for being a “long-term customer” and promising to have high-ranking personnel look into the matter “and see where we went off the track,” the suit states.

Farmers then contacted Michaels on Feb. 18 and informed him that although the insurer compensated him for the loss of his equipment, “We regret to inform you, since there is no associated value to the digital photos and archival transparencies, we will not be making making any additional payments on your loss and are closing our file,” the suit states.

Michaels believes that the lawsuit will produce evidence that Farmers has adopted a policy of denying its policyholders’ claims for losses of electronic media, the plaintiff’s court papers state.

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