April 7th, 2014
Ohio Appellate Court Upholds $10 Million Insurance Bad Faith Verdict
Wheeling - The Ohio Seventh District Court of Appeals has upheld a $10 Million verdict awarded in January 2012 that was awarded to two families as a result of Personal Service Insurance Company's wrongful denial of insurance coverage benefits stemming from an April 2003 crash that claimed the life of one man and seriously injured two others.
The court upheld the jury's verdict that PSIC's denial of coverage and refusal to provide an attorney to Donald and Kathy Cox was done in bad faith and awarded $8 million in compensatory damages and that PSIC, a Pennsylvania Corporation, consciously disregarded the rights of the Coxes and awarded punitive damages of $2 million.
The Coxes' attorney, Jamie Bordas, of Bordas & Bordas, said that this decision sends a message that insurance companies cannot treat their client's customers in this manner.
"The court reviewed and upheld the jury's decision regarding this large insurance company's total disregard for the rights of these Belmont County residents," Bordas said. "It sends a message to insurance companies everywhere that when they promise to provide coverage and protect people who use their hard--earned paychecks to buy insurance, the insurance company had better make good on that promise when it is their turn to protect those people."
The Appellate Court also approved the attorney fee award of Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer Sargus that was in excess of $1 Million. The court stated that Judge Sargus had praised the quality of the legal wok performed stating that it had not been surpassed at any time in her career as a judge.
The 2012 trial spanned two weeks and included testimony from numerous experts, including Charles Miller of Berkeley, California and Paul Dolbow of Safety Harbor, Florida, on insurance industry standards.
The case stems from an April 2003 crash that resulted in the death of Brian Bigler and serious injuries to his father, Howard Bigler. Donald Cox had hit the Biglers after going left of center while trying to adjust his sun visor on his car. Cox and his wife had automobile insurance coverage with PSIC. However, after being notified of the crash by its agent, PSIC refunded the Coxes' premiums four days after the wreck, claiming that the company had effectively cancelled the policy over a month earlier.
Judge Sargus presided over the trial and had previously held that under Ohio law, PSIC had not effectively cancelled the policy before the collision and that the policy was in full force and effect on the day of the accident.
Because PSIC had refused to provide coverage and had refused to meet the Bigler family's settlement demand of only $50,000.00, the liability limits under the policy PSIC had sold to the Coxes, which would have completely released the Coxes from further liability, the Biglers sued Cox and obtained a judgment of $3,000,000.00 against him. Cox later assigned his claims against PSIC to the Bigler family so that the judgment that the family had obtained against Cox could be satisfied through any recovery against his insurance company. Attorney Harry White of the law firm Banker & White in St. Clairsville represented the interests of the Bigler family at the trial and on appeal. Tom Mulvey and Lisa Haase of the Columbus, Ohio law firm of Curry, Roby, and Mulvey Co., LLC, represented PSIC that had previously been headquartered in Columbus.
Bordas & Bordas is a plaintiff's litigation law firm of 16 attorneys based in Wheeling, West Virginia that also has offices in St. Clairsville, Ohio and Moundsville, WV. It practices throughout the region in diverse areas of law. For more information, please contact Jamie Bordas or Carrie Scanlon, Director of Communications and Philanthropy at 304.242.8410304.242.8410.