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Jury Backs Insurance Company in Suit Brought by Former Employee

An Orange County Superior Court jury has rejected the claims of a former insurance agent who alleged that his employer tried to steal his customers after he was fired.

The jury found the Farmers Insurance Exchange blameless for its 1978 termination of agent Michael Weilbacher for failing to follow guidelines in writing policies and failing to forward premiums from customers.

The Monday verdict in the court of Judge Robert C. Todd also means that the jury did not believe Weilbacher’s claim that an official of the firm directed him not to write insurance for blacks, Latinos and Orientals, Eileen L. McGeever, attorney for Farmers, said.

Weilbacher, who had been an agent working in the county, testified under oath that he was told not to do business with minorities, but the official he quoted, Joe Conners, Santa Ana district manager for Farmers, flatly denied the claim.

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Under questioning by McGeever, Weilbacher acknowledged that he had not made the allegation when he appealed his termination, when he filed the lawsuit, when it was amended or when he gave sworn statements in preparation for the trial.

Weilbacher’s lawsuit sought unspecified damages for Farmers’ alleged interference with his efforts to retain customers after he was fired.

Company officials acknowledged that they had attempted to contact his customers.

But jurors apparently believed their defense that Weilbacher understood when he was hired that in the event of termination, both he and the firm could independently solicit his old customers.

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Weilbacher had earlier refused to talk outside the courtroom about the case.


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