BY ROSE NISKER
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GREGORY COWLEY
To Susan Popik,
insurance law is riveting stuff
In the early 1980s, a series of powerful
rainstorms swept through California,
bringing heavy floods, mudflows and
landslides. As homeowners across the
state assessed the damage, a wave of
litigation hit California courtrooms. State
Farm Insurance called on attorney Susan
Popik to handle the onslaught.
“Basically, I spent an entire decade
dealing with one small paragraph of
State Farm’s homeowners insurance
policy,” Popik says. It might sound tedious
to most, but she’s not complaining.
“I’m convinced that those of us who
do coverage work have a little quirk in
our brain that makes it fun to wrestle
The quirk that kept Popik grappling with
that paragraph translated into a decade
of successful litigation for State Farm,
as evidenced most famously in Garvey v.
State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. There were
two causes of the damage to the Garveys’
property: one covered by their insurance
and one not. The California Supreme Court
ruled that the major cause—in this case,
not covered—is the one that counts. That
landmark win for State Farm continues to
carry considerable weight with regard to
bad faith insurance disputes.