An appellate court in California ruled that a vintage wine collec- tor’s insurance company did not
have to cover his loss from purchasing
close to $18 million in counterfeit wine.
Purportedly rare vintage wine
After David Doyle purchased close to
$18 million of purportedly rare, vintage
wine from Rudy Kurniawan, a law enforcement investigation revealed that, for
many years, Kurniawan apparently had
been filling empty wine bottles with his
own wine blend and had been affixing
counterfeit labels to the bottles.
Kurniawan was convicted of fraud and
was sent to prison for 10 years.
Claim seeks reimbursement
Doyle filed a claim seeking reimbursement for “the losses” he had sustained
due to Kurniawan’s fraud with his insurer,
Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, under the “valuable possessions” policy he
had purchased from Fireman’s Fund to
insure his wine collection.
Fireman’s Fund denied all coverage,
stating there had been no covered “loss”
under the policy.
Doyle sued Fireman’s Fund for breach
of contract, the trial court ruled in favor
of the insurer, and Doyle appealed.
He argued that his insurance policy
provided “broad protection against all
insurable risks,” including “crime-re-
lated losses to [his] investment whether
anything physical happened to the wine
For its part, Firearm’s Fund argued that
no “loss or damage to covered property”
had occurred; that is, the wine was “in the
exact same condition now that it was in
when [Mr. Doyle had] first insured it.”
The Fireman’s Fund policy covered:
The appellate court’s decision
• “Collectibles,” meaning wine, sports
cards, dolls, model trains and other
private collections of rare, unique or
novel items of personal interest in-
The policy provided:
• We insure for direct and accidental
loss or damage to covered property
caused by an “occurrence” defined as:
A loss to covered property which oc-
curs during the policy period…and is
caused by one or more perils we in-
The appellate court affirmed.
In its decision, the appellate court acknowledged that Doyle had indeed suffered
a financial loss, but it found there had been
no loss to his covered property – that is, the
wine he had purchased and insured.
According to the appellate court, Fire-
man’s Fund was insuring “against any
losses to the wine” but was not insuring
“against any losses to [Mr.] Doyle’s fi-
nances or to his unrealized expectations as
to the value of the wine he had purchased.”
The appellate court pointed out that
when Doyle had purchased the wine from
Kurniawan, it was counterfeit. “The wine
remained counterfeit (and essentially
worthless) throughout the entire cover-
age period of the policy,” the appellate
court noted. It added that Doyle might
have a valid claim against Kurniawan for
fraud, but it found that he could “not rea-
sonably expect” his Fireman’s Fund prop-
erty insurance policy to reimburse him
for his multiple purchases of wine from
Kurniawan, when the wine was “essen-
tially valueless at the time of purchase.”
The appellate court concluded that
Doyle had not purchased “a prove-
nance insurance policy”; he had pur-
chased a property insurance policy.
The case is Doyle v. Fireman’s Fund
Ins. Co., No. G054197 (Cal. Ct.App.
March 7, 2018).
Steven A. Meyerowitz, Esq., (smeyerowitz@
the director of FC&S Legal, the editor-in-chief of the Insurance Coverage Law
Report, and the founder and president of
Meyerowitz Communications Inc. This story
is reprinted with permission from FC&S
Legal, the industry’s only comprehensive
digital resource designed for insurance
coverage law professionals.
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Collector Spent $18M on
Counterfeit Vintage Wine —
Insurance Policy didn’t
Cover the Fraud
By Steven Meyerowitz, Esq.