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Judge Dismisses False-Arrest Lawsuit Against GEICO

After GEICO paid her for the total loss of her vehicle, Rosinda Matute-Castellanos played a cat-and-mouse game with GEICO and salvage company Insurance Auto Auctions, neither of which was able to locate the vehicle on multiple occasions.

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A federal judge has dismissed a Georgia woman’s false-arrest lawsuit against GEICO.

After being involved in a March 2012 collision with a GEICO-insured driver, Rosinda Matute-Castellanos of Atlanta agreed to sign title of her car over to GEICO, which cut her a check for the total loss of the vehicle.

However, according to court documents, Matute-Castellanos played a cat-and-mouse game with GEICO and salvage company Insurance Auto Auctions, neither of which was able to locate the vehicle on multiple occasions.

GEICO eventually filed a police report, and the Chamblee Police Department assigned Det. Chris Newberry to investigate.

“Based on inconsistencies in [Matute-Castellanos’s] report, her delay in reporting the vehicle stolen, her failure to return Newberry’s calls and the frequent relocation of the vehicle, Newberry suspected [Matute-Castellanos] had ‘sold the vehicle and reported her vehicle stolen,’” Judge Thomas Thrash Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia explained in his summary judgment.

Based on Newberry’s findings, the DeKalb County Magistrate Court issued a warrant for her arrest on July 24, 2012.

Matute-Castellanos was arrested on March 8, 2014. However, the charges were dropped after the state solicitor determined that the statute of limitations had expired.

In October 2016, Rosinda Matute-Castellanos filed a lawsuit against GEICO, alleging claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution, as well as negligent hiring, training and supervision.

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In his summary judgment, Thrash noted that her lawsuit failed to provide that GEICO – specifically Mike Mitchell of the insurer’s Special Investigations Unit, who had referred the matter to police – acted with malice in deciding to prosecute Matute-Castellanos.

“There is nothing in the record to indicate that GEICO acted with malice in prosecuting [Matute-Castellanos] for the concealment of property,” Thrash wrote. “Mitchell never knew [Matute-Castellanos] personally, and in fact never had the opportunity to meet with or communicate with [her] at all, despite his best efforts to do so. All the evidence on the record indicates that Mitchell contacted the police solely because of the results of his investigation, not because of any personal hostility.”

Thrash also concluded that Matute-Castellanos failed to prove her assertion that GEICO was “negligent in hiring, training and supervising the staff in the pickup and investigation of the recovery of vehicles and reporting them to the state.”

“[Matute-Castellanos] has produced no evidence whatsoever to suggest that there have been any previous incidents similar to those alleged in this case,” Thrash wrote. “Nor has [she] produced any evidence showing that GEICO knew or should have known such incidents occurred even if they did.”

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Attorney Craig Terrett of Cruser, Mitchell, Novitz, Sanchez, Gaston & Zimet, who defended the case with partner J. Robb Cruser, told PropertyCasualty360.com that this was “a mess of a case.”

“This was definitely the right result,” Terrett told the website.

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