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Eleventh Circuit: Jury Instruction About Notice to Insured of Settlement Demand Was Required (Florida)

In its recent decision, Brink v. Direct General Ins. Co., 38 F.4th 917 (11th Cir. 2022), the Eleventh Circuit ruled 2-1 that the Florida district court erred when it failed to instruct a jury that an insurer not only owed a duty to settle claims for its insured, but also owed a duty to advise its insured of settlement offers. This case arose from a vehicle incident resulting in serious injuries to the plaintiff, Dustin Brink. Brink later won over $12 million in a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, Juan Ruiz Pereles. To recover the judgment, Brink sued Pereles’ insurer, Direct General Insurance, for bad faith toward Pereles.[1] The jury returned a verdict in Direct General’s favor, but Brink argued

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Texas Supreme Court Axes Policyholder’s Attempt to Expand Insurer Tort Liability

In Elephant Insurance Co., LLC v. Kenyon, the Supreme Court of Texas reiterated the framework of an insurer’s common-law duties to insureds under Texas law.[1] In applying that framework to the facts of the case, the Court rejected an attempt to expand an insurer’s obligations under existing common-law tort principles. The Court also refused to recognize new common-law duties, requiring insurers to protect or warn policyholders following car accidents. About The Author

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California Court of Appeal: Insurers Not Liable Under the California Insurance Frauds Prevention Act

In its recent decision, People ex rel. Ellinger v. Magill, et al., —Cal.Rptr.3d—, No. E076378, 2022 WL 1077988 (Cal. Ct. App., Mar. 18, 2022), the California Court of Appeal refused to extend liability under California’s Insurance Frauds Prevention Act (IFPA) to an insurer’s claims handling practices. Insurance Code Section 1871.7 allows a party to file a qui tam action[1] for violations of certain insurance claim related conduct described in the rule itself. Section 1871.7 also incorporates prohibited conduct from other statutes, such as California Penal Code Section 550, as permissible bases for the qui tam action. A person who violates Section 1871.7 is subject to “a civil penalty of not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000) nor more than ten

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Posted in Bad Faith

Eleventh Circuit (Florida):  No Bad Faith for Investigating Claim

On February 15, 2022, the United States Court of Appeal for the Eleventh Circuit upheld the Southern District of Florida’s summary judgment victory for GEICO, finding that no reasonable jury could conclude that GEICO had operated in bad faith with respect to its handling of a wrongful death claim against its insured. Ellis v. GEICO Gen. Ins. Co., No. 21-12159, 2022 WL 454176 (11th Cir. Feb. 15, 2022).  This case reinforces that under Florida law, an insurer may take a reasonable time to investigate a claim, and that, absent time to investigate or a settlement demand, an insurer need not voluntarily tender policy limits.  About The Author

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New Statute May Spell Trouble for New Jersey Insurers

On January 19, 2022, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed S.B. 1559, known as the “New Jersey Insurance Fair Conduct Act,” which allows motorists to sue their insurance companies over “unreasonably” late or denied coverage benefits and unfair settlement practices.  The bill, passing through both houses of New Jersey’s legislature without substantial amendment, would allow prospective plaintiffs to pursue bad faith litigation against their uninsured/underinsured motorist carriers and employees for “unreasonably” denying coverage for claims or delivering benefits “unreasonably” late after a claim. About The Author

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Fifth Circuit Weighs in on Aftermath of Texas Supreme Court’s Decisions Affecting Insurers’ Pre-Appraisal Award Payments and Damages under the Texas Prompt Payment of Claims Act

Just a few short years ago, there was a bright line rule under Texas law concerning appraisal awards.  If an insurer timely paid an appraisal award, that payment extinguished all of the insurer’s contractual and extracontractual liability to the insured.  See, e.g., Garcia v. State Farm Lloyds, 514 S.W.3d 257, 264-273 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2016, pet. denied); Anderson v. Am Risk Ins. Co., 2016 Tex. App. LEXIS 6538, *10 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2016, no pet.); Perry v. United Servs. Auto Ass’n, 2018 Tex. App. LEXIS 10108, *7 (Tex. App.—Amarillo 2018, no pet.); Gonzales v. Allstate Vehicle and Property Ins. Co., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26203, *3 (S.D. Tex. 2019).  The Fifth Circuit had previously agreed, making an Erie guess

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Iowa Supreme Court Rejects Restaurant’s Allegations of Bad Faith and Breach of Contract After Appraisal

The Iowa Supreme Court recently reversed the appellate court’s denial of an insurer’s motion for a directed verdict, finding that United Fire did not breach the insurance policy and did not commit bad faith during a property appraisal. Luigi’s, Inc. v. United Fire and Cas. Co., No. 19-1669, — N.W.2d —-, 2021 WL 1932711 (Iowa May 14, 2021). About The Author

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Lack of Notice No Excuse for Failure to Settle

An insurer can no longer claim its lack of notice of a lawsuit against its insured excuses it for failing to settle the suit after the Georgia Supreme Court’s recent decision in GEICO Indemnity Co. v. Whiteside, Case No. S21Q0227 (Ga. April 19, 2021). In Whiteside, the Georgia Supreme Court held that an insurer’s bad faith failure to settle a claim may result in liability for judgments in excess of the insured’s policy, even in cases where the insured also breaches its contractual duty to notify the insurer of a suit brought against it. About The Authors

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Avoid Creating Coverage By Estoppel, Waiver & Forfeiture: California

Waiver, estoppel and forfeiture are doctrines on which insureds often rely to try to create coverage outside the terms of the insurance policy. Insureds will often assert that they are entitled to such extra-contractual coverage based entirely on how the insurer handled the claim.  But under California law, these doctrines often do not apply, and an insurer can avoid a potential waiver, estoppel or forfeiture by communicating with the insured. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, the doctrines are different. Estoppel refers to conduct by the insurer that reasonably causes an insured to rely to his detriment. Waiver is an express or implicit intentional relinquishment of a known right demonstrated. And forfeiture is the assessment of a penalty against

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A Jury Must Find An Insurer Acted Unreasonably In Order To Find Bad Faith Failure to Settle

On March 8, 2021 the California Court of Appeal, reversing a $10 million verdict against Farmers, found that a jury must specifically find unreasonable acts by an insurer to support a “failure to settle” bad faith finding.  Pinto v. Farmers Ins. Exch., No. B295742, __ Cal. App. 5th __, 2021 WL 857776 (Cal. Ct. App. Mar. 8, 2021).  The court also clarified that it has never held that a failure to accept a reasonable settlement is per se unreasonable under California law.  The case involved a single-vehicle rollover accident, which left the claimant, a passenger in Farmers’ insured vehicle, a quadriplegic. Farmers issued an auto insurance policy with a $50,000 each person and $100,000 each occurrence limit to the owner

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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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