January 12, 2007, Vancouver, WA
A Clark County jury returned a verdict of $700,000 against the owner of a dump truck that pulled out in front of a woman driving an automobile. While her overt physical injuries, cervical strain and contusions, largely resolved with time, she continued to experience chronic headache, post traumatic stress, depression and personality changes. It was eventually determined that she had suffered a closed-head, mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI). Testimony of family members and co-workers regarding changes in her personality and abilities was important in obtaining this substantial verdict.
Mendoza v. McDonald's Corp.
Set important precedent
Addresses important issues that arise in almost every bad faith case involving the delay or denial of a workers compensation claim. These issues include: 1) the scope of damages available; 2) implied waiver of privilege when defense counsel influence claims decisions; 3) respondeat superior liability of insurer for defense counsel misconduct; and 4) the preclusive effect given to compensability determinations made in administrative proceedings.
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)
Doe v. Martin
May 27, 2009
$5.86 Million for Brain Injury
May 27, 2009, Seattle, WA
A King County jury awarded $5.86 Million to a Washington man injured in a head-on collision. FR’s client suffered a fractured leg, various contusions and a traumatic brain injury (TBI) causing him to remain in a coma for several days following the accident. The seriousness of plaintiff’s brain injury was the central issue in the claim.
Defendant’s vehicle was insured by PEMCO with a policy limit of $1.25 Million. Plaintiff made a policy limit demand at mediation but it was rejected by the insurer. At the same time, PEMCO assured its driver that in the event of an excess verdict, it would pay “any amount awarded.”
Plaintiff’s attorney, Ed Harper of Kirkland, recognized that PEMCO’s assurance to its driver meant that there was no cap on potential recovery. He asked Rick Friedman of Friedman | Rubin to join him for the trial.
Friedman recognized that the difficulty with the case was getting the jury to recognize the seriousness of the client's brain injury despite his retained intellectual capacity and communicative skills. At the same time, it was necessary to counter the defense strategy which sought to blame the client.
Friedman’s strategy was straightforward. In addition to the medical and psychological experts, the focus at trial would be the testimony of friends, family, and others, who could shed light on the client’s mental deficits. In-depth interviews of parents, friends and others revealed telling examples of the client's mental abilities before and after the accident. These stories supported the expert testimony indicating that while the client substantially retained his native intelligence, he now has great difficulty with memory, concentration, and multi-tasking.
Facing Harper and Friedman at trial caused PEMCO to re-evaluate its settlement position. Having previously rejected plaintiff’s $1.25 Million demand at mediation, PEMCO offered $2 Million as the trial got underway. As the trial proceeded, PEMCO upped its offer to $2.5 Million. These offers were considered but were allowed to expire as Harper and Friedman concentrated on delivering a better result. After a two week trial, the jury returned a fair verdict.
Merrick v. Paul Revere Life Ins. Co.
$50 Million Punitive Award
U.S. District Court Affirms $50 Million Punishment of Unum Group
November 17, 2008, Las Vegas, NV
U.S. District Court Judge James C. Mahan in Las Vegas has affirmed $50 Million in damages awarded by a jury in June against Paul Revere and Unum Group in the partial retrial of a lawsuit first tried to verdict in 2004. In the 2004 trial, the first jury awarded $1.6 Million in compensatory damages and $10 Million in punitive damages to G. Clinton Merrick in connection with the insurers' denial of his disability claim. The insurers appealed and the punitive award was ultimately sent back for retrial before a new jury. Merrick v. Paul Revere Life Ins. Co., 500 F.3d 1007, C.A.9 (Nev.), 2007.
In the June retrial, the second jury ordered Paul Revere to pay $24 Million and Unum to pay $36 Million for a total award of $60 Million. Today’s decision by Judge Mahan, while reducing the punitive award to $50 Million, affirmed the jury’s findings that both insurance companies had engaged in improper claims practices designed to cheat people out of their disability benefits. Judge Mahan found that the insurers engaged in a scheme to deny claims of their disabled policyholders, they were motivated by profit at the expense of their disabled insureds, and they profited enormously, going “from a company with little financial flexibility to a company with over $8 billion dollars in total stockholder equity.” Judge Mahan concluded that “much of this accumulation in value came at the expense of Defendants’ policyholders.” Although Judge Mahan agreed with the jury’s findings that both companies acted reprehensively, he was required to reduce the jury verdict against Unum on constitutional grounds to $26 Million, bringing the total award to $50 Million.
“The jury heard evidence of a fifteen year scheme to cheat disabled people,” said Rick Friedman, Merrick’s lead trial attorney. “Jury after jury and regulator after regulator have condemned their practices, but still they continue to cheat people.” Friedman expressed gratitude at Judge Mahan’s decision saying, “Judge Mahan is a very conservative judge. He presided over two trials, listening to the evidence and studying the exhibits that documented breath-taking corporate misconduct.” According to Friedman, “Judge Mahan’s detailed decision reflects a firm grasp of the facts and the law that must be applied to those facts. Given the present state of the law, Judge Mahan had no choice but to reduce the award. However, we are gratified that he did so in a way that makes clear how strongly the law condemns cheating the disabled.”
Ceimo v. General American Life Ins. Co., Paul Revere Life Ins. Co. and Provident Life Ins. Co.
Jun 29, 2005
$84 Million Jury Verdict
Ceimo v. Paul Revere, Provident Accident and Life and General American Life, U.S. District Court, Phoenix, Arizona, 4/2/03.
Jury found that disability insurer terminated benefits of cardiologist in bad faith. Jury awards $5.4 million for emotional distress and $79 million punitive damages.
The jury's original verdict of $84.4 million was the 7th largest jury verdict in the United States that year and largest ever verdict faced by Paul Revere or its parent UnumProvident. The verdict was reduced post-trial by the trial court to $14.3 million with the court adding over $600k in attorney fees and costs.