The estranged wife of a French opera singer is suing the entertainer and State Farm, alleging she had to temporarily live in a mobile home park when their $12.95 million Malibu mansion burned down in the Woolsey Fire shortly after she filed for divorce in 2018.
“`Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there’ is one of the most bogus corporate taglines in history,” the opening line on Renee Izambard’s Santa Monica Superior Court lawsuit reads.
The insurer’s ads are “ubiquitous, most often featuring highly paid celebrity athlete spokespersons run during major sporting events,” according to the suit filed Oct. 5 by the wife of Sebastien Izambard, alleging breach of contract and negligence. “The company certainly doesn’t skimp on its advertising spent to sell its insurance policies across the nation.”
The suit accuses State farm of “sophisticated and dishonest schemes and tactics to dishonor its policy obligations and missing no opportunity to squeeze and vilify its own insureds when they are at their most vulnerable.”
A State Farm representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment, and a representative of the plaintiff’s estranged husband could not immediately be reached.
Renee Izambard, a former senior publicist at Sony Music in Sydney, Australia, then known as Renee Murphy, is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
The Izambards were married in 2008 and have three minor children, the suit states. They bought a family home in Malibu and after years of “painstaking and meticulous renovations and improvements largely managed and curated by Ms. Izambard, the couple’s home in Malibu was transformed into a stunning French nouveau-farm house-style family compound,” according to her court papers.
The home, which was located on a 4.2-acre parcel of hillside property that had ocean views, three separate residential buildings, tennis courts, multiple rooms and a large carport, was “a unique … oasis” that was built to the plaintiff’s specifications to raise her three children in peace and privacy, the suit states.
The home was listed for sale at $12.950 million in May 2018 and Sebastien Izambard obtained homeowner’s insurance through December of that year, the suit states. However, he and the insurance agent “inexplicably obtained a homeowner’s insurance policy with policy limits far below the value of the property and its contents,” according to the complaint.
After suffering “years of despicable physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and financial abuse and coercion of the worst imaginable kind at the hands of Mr. Izambard, in early November 2018 the plaintiff filed for divorce,” the suit alleges. The plaintiff says she remained at the house to be the primary caregiver to the couple’s children while her husband “was routinely away on tour living the life of a pop star.”
The Woolsey Fire swept through Malibu that same month, forcing the plaintiff and her children to evacuate as their home was destroyed, “with only the tennis court surviving largely unscathed,” the suit states.
The plaintiff upon examination of the State Farm policy was “dismayed” to learn that her husband and the insurance agent broker had “woefully underinsured the property,” the suit alleges.
About seven months after the original claim was filed, State Farm paid out policy limits, but the plaintiff “was still left with millions of dollars of uninsured losses” due to the alleged failure of her husband and the insurance agent to obtain adequate coverage, according to the suit. In addition, State Farm “neglected to timely investigate Ms. Izambard’s complaint that (the broker) failed to obtain the additional coverage necessary to fully insure the property and to protect her from a catastrophe such as the Woolsey Fire,” the suit alleges.
State Farm also refused to pay for a rental home that would maintain the plaintiff’s standard of living, forcing her to move into a mobile home park with her three children, as it was the only property that she could afford out of her own pocket that was close to their specialized school,” the suit alleges.