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Massachusetts: Third-Party Claim Handler Made Reasonable, Prompt Efforts to Settle Nursing Home Liability Claim, and Therefore Was Not Liable For $14 M Excess Verdict

On March 18, 2019, the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a decision holding that Sedgwick Claims Management Services made reasonable and prompt efforts to settle a nursing home liability claim, and therefore was not liable for a $14M excess verdict despite the fact that the highest pretrial offer Sedgwick made was for $250,000. Calandro v. Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Inc. 2019 WL 1236927, ___ F.3d ___ (2019). In a colorful appellate decision notable for its loquaciousness, the First Circuit observed, “every case has its twists and turns, and an insurance carrier is not to be held to a duty of prescience.” In reaching its decision, the Court further observed that “perfection is not the standard” to demonstrate good faith

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Georgia Supreme Court Spares Insurance Company from a $5.3 Million Bad-Faith Verdict

Last week, the Georgia Supreme Court confirmed that an insurance carrier’s duty to settle a claim against its policyholder arises only after an injured claimant presents a “valid offer” to settle within policy limits. In First Acceptance Insurance Company of Georgia v. Hughes,[1] the Court found that, because the letter presented to First Acceptance by the injured parties’ counsel was not a time-limited settlement demand, First Acceptance’s failure to respond before the injured parties withdrew their offer did not constitute negligence or a bad faith failure to settle the claim within policy limits. In 2008, First Acceptance’s policyholder caused a multi-car crash killing the policyholder and injuring five others, including Julie An and her 2-year-old daughter. The policy had the

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In Rhode Island, No Duty of Good Faith to Third Party Claimant

In Summit Insurance Company v. Stricklett, — A.3d —, No. 2017185APPEALPC12536, 2019 WL 190358, (R.I. Jan. 15, 2019), the Supreme Court of Rhode Island held that – similar to many jurisdictions – the duty to act in a reasonable manner and in good faith settling a claim does not run to the claimant absent an assignment from the insured. The facts of Stricklett are simple. Mr. Stricklett’s vehicle was insured by Summit under a policy with a $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident coverage limit. In 2002, Stricklett allegedly collided with eleven-year-old Scott Alves, requiring that Alves undergo medical treatment. Alves’s parents submitted the medical bill to Summit Insurance Company, who investigated the incident and determined that Stricklett was not

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WHOSE SETTLEMENT IS IT, ANYWAY? NEGOTIATING CONSISTENT WITH AN INSURER’S STRONG COVERAGE DEFENSES

This author suggested, in an earlier May 2016 Bad Faith blog article, that an insurer can measure on a “strength scale” its insurance coverage defenses while it defends its insured against underlying claims and lawsuits under a reservation of rights. The “strength scale” of coverage defenses, especially when subject to ongoing updates, can become a useful decision-making tool during settlement negotiations. An insurer has a legitimate basis to assess its coverage defenses as part of the settlement process when the coverage issues may render it unclear whose money will be used to pay for a judgment or settlement: the insurer’s money, the insured’s money, or combined contributions of both. “Bad faith” case law can be scarce, in many jurisdictions, regarding

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POLICY LIMIT DEMANDS + QUIRKY LEGAL ISSUES = CALL LAWYER

The recent California decision Barickman v. Mercury Casualty Company, 2016 WL 3975279, (Calif. App. – July 25, 2016), previously reported in Cozen’s bad faith blog on July 28, 2016, is worth revisiting on a bigger picture issue.  Low policy limit demands are often more dangerous than high policy demands.  This is because often times less experienced adjusters are assigned to lower policy limit cases and may not have recognized some of the red flags presented in Barickman and more importantly may not have recognized the need for legal advice.  In Barickman, those red flags were as follows:  (1) serious injuries; (2) clear liability; (3) low policy limits; (4) policy limits demand made with short time fuse to respond; (5) numerous

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When a Policy Limits Offer is Not Enough: A Cautionary Tale of a Failure to Settle Case

In a recent unpublished decision, the California Court of Appeals upheld a $3 million judgment against an auto liability insurer that rejected proposed language in a settlement agreement, notwithstanding the insurer’s policy limits offer. Barickman v. Mercury Opinion, 2016 WL 3975279 (Cal. Ct. App. 2016) (unpublished). Although unpublished and not binding precedent, Barickman raises several claim handling issues which may be useful for carriers to consider. Barickman arises from a personal injury claim in which the insured, Timory McDaniel struck two pedestrians while driving under the influence. McDaniel fled the scene but was later apprehended. She reported the claim the following day to her insurer Mercury Casualty Company as an accident without further detail. Within eight weeks of receiving notice

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The Duty to Follow-up Part II: When The Underlying Litigation Changes

In many states, an insurer not only has a duty to timely communicate with its insured and respond to demands for settlement by a claimant asserting a claim regarding the adjustment of a loss, that duty may also include the duty to follow-up on those communications.  Recent case law further emphasizes the importance of follow-up in the context of an offer to settle made by a tort claimant, as well as when the insurer is apprised of changes to the status of claims and defenses in the underlying tort case.  Neglecting the duty to follow-up can cost an insurer – converting a $25,000 claim to a $7 million loss.  As a recent case decided by the United States District Court

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The Duty to Follow-up: How A $25,000 Offer To Settle Turns Into A $7 Million Loss

In many states, an insurer not only has a duty to timely communicate with its insured and respond to demands for settlement by a claimant asserting a claim regarding the adjustment of a loss, that duty may also include the duty to follow-up on those communications.  As a recent case decided by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois shows, the costs of not doing so, even on a relatively small claim under a low limit policy, can be catastrophic. Horace Mann Insurance Company provided automotive insurance limits of $25,000.  Less than 45 days after a motor vehicle accident involving its insured near Tampa, Florida in which the insured’s SUV collided with a motorcycle, Horace Mann

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Avoiding Insurance Bad Faith
Cozen O’Connor represents insurance clients in jurisdictions throughout the U.S. against statutory and common law first- and third-party extracontractual claims for actual and consequential damages, penalties, punitive and exemplary damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and coverage payments. Whether bad faith claims are addenda to a broader coverage matter or are central to the complaint, Cozen O’Connor attorneys know how to efficiently respond to extracontractual causes of action. More
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