Court of Appeals upheld jury award of $2.9 million
Bad faith case, cert petition denied.
E.E.O.C. v. National Educ Ass'n, Alaska
Sep 02, 2005
Summary judgement for Defendants reversed
Background: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought Title VII action against employer, on behalf of three female employees, alleging that the employer created sex-based hostile work environment, and that it constructively discharged one of the employees. The employees intervened. The United States District Court for the District of Alaska, James K. Singleton, Chief Judge, granted summary judgment in favor of defendant. Employees appealed.
Rollins v. King County Metro Transit
Plaintiff verdict at trial and Court of Appeals
Bus passengers attacked by large group of unknown assailants brought action against county transit system, alleging it neglected its duties as a common carrier in failing to maintain a safe environment. The Superior Court, King County, William Downing, J., instructed the jury it could award damages only for those injuries proximately caused by system's negligence, and refused to instruct on contributory negligence.
Court of Appeals upheld the verdict.The Washington Supreme Court denied METRO's petition for review.
Greenberg v. Paul Revere Life Insurance Co.
Jury verdict affirmed
The U.S. Supreme Court denied UnumProvident and Paul Revere's petition for certiorari. This denial let stand the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit opinion affirming the jury's verdict of $547,445.42 compensatory damages and $2.4 million in punitive damages in a case involving the bad faith denial of disability insurance benefits.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals citation is: Greenberg v. Paul Revere Life Insurance Company, 2004 WL 74630 (9th Cir. 2004).
Background: Insured brought action against disability insurer, alleging bad faith termination of his disability benefits. The United States District Court for the District of Arizona, Susan R. Bolton, J., entered judgment, upon jury verdict, in favor of insured. Insurer appealed.
Holdings: The Court of Appeals held that:
(1) admission of testimony of insured's insurance industry expert was warranted;
(2) exclusion of physician's testimony about insured's demeanor during deposition was warranted;
(3) insured was entitled to award of future disability benefits as part of compensatory damages award;
(4) award of punitive damages was warranted; and
(5) award of punitive damages in the amount of $2.4 million was not excessive.
Athey v. Farmers Ins. Exchange
Dec 06, 2000
Jury verdict upheld.
Insured who was injured in automobile accident brought diversity action against insurer, alleging breach of contract and bad faith based on insurer's refusal to pay underinsured motorist claim.
The United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, Lawrence L. Piersol, Chief District Judge, denied insurer's motion to bifurcate claims for trial. After jury returned verdict in favor of insured, the District Court, John B. Jones, J., denied insurer's motion for new trial or judgment as a matter of law, and insurer appealed.
The Court of Appeals, Murphy, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) evidence of insurer's conduct during settlement negotiations was admissible; (2) testimony of insured's former counsel as to negotiations was admissible; (3) bad faith and punitive damages verdicts were supported by sufficient evidence; and (4) and award of compensatory damages for emotional distress was supported by sufficient evidence.
Athey v. Farmers Ins. Exchange 234 F.3d 357 (C.A.8 (S.D.),2000)
Daniels v. American Physicans Assurance Company
Jun 03, 2009
Plaintiff's verdict, $3.8 Million
June 3, 2009, Louisville, KY
A Jefferson County jury awarded $3.8 Million to a Paducah woman for an insurer's unreasonable delay in settling her medical malpractice claim against a doctor who had performed an unorthodox surgical procedure he described as a "modified abdominoplasty" at Lourdes Hospital in July of 2003. The surgery on Deborah Daniels, a respiratory therapist, resulted in life-threatening complications requiring multiple and extended hospital stays. She brought suit against the surgeon, Dr. David Grimes, in June of 2004. By May of 2005 her doctor reported she would never be able to work again.
Although the insurer had information indicating that Dr. Grimes' liability for Daniels’ injuries was reasonably clear, American Physicians Assurance Corporation made no meaningful attempt to settle Daniels' claim until July and August of 2006. Even after their own board-certified medical consultant told them that Dr. Grimes surgery was “inexcusable and indefensible,” they continued to delay settlement efforts and offered only $75,000 to settle the case at a court ordered mediation. These delays left Daniels destitute and under severe financial stress. Ms. Daniels testified that the day of mediation made her feel like her entire life and 20 year career were worth nothing in the eyes of the insurer. The financial and emotional stress, and AP’s threat to void coverage, compelled her to settle her claim against Dr. Grimes for significantly less than the policy limit of $1 Million.
After settling the claim against the doctor, Daniels brought suit directly against American Physicians alleging that its delay in settling the claim and its refusal to pay a fair sum for her injuries violated the Kentucky Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act. Her Louisville attorney, Hans Poppe, foresaw that he would need to be a witness at trial. Therefore he sought out attorneys specializing in "insurance bad faith" litigation. He hired the Friedman | Rubin firm with offices in Alaska and Washington. According to attorney Ken Friedman who tried the case, "AP Assurance said they did nothing wrong or unusual in this case and that every claim was handled in this same manner.” Friedman continued, “I don’t think they realized until the end of trial that it was their ‘business as usual’ tactics that were on trial in this case.” The jury heard evidence that the claims adjusters were given financial targets to pay less in claims to injured patients in 2006 and adjusters had goals to push more claims to trial rather than settlement. The jury awarded Daniels $350,000 compensatory damages and $3,479,277 in punitive damages. Friedman said “the jury deserves a lot of credit for analyzing a complicated set of facts and understanding what went wrong, and why. They also deserve credit for rendering a verdict that will send a message to all insurers in Kentucky that they have serious obligations to make a good faith effort to pay valid claims promptly and fairly.” The jury wanted the company to get the message -- the punitive award was the exact sum that the claims adjuster was told to cut from her block of claims in 2006.