DECEMBER 2017 BAD FAITH CASES: NO BAD FAITH WHERE: INSURER CONTINUALLY INVESTIGATED CLAIM; MADE LOW BUT REASONABLE SETTLEMENT OFFERS; DELAY IN ISSUING EXPERT REPORT WAS BASED ON POTENTIALLY IMMINENT SETTLEMENT; DISCOUNTING OFFER FOR TORTFEASOR PAYMENT FELL WITHIN TOTAL LIABILITY VALUATION (Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas)

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This is a UIM bad faith action that went to verdict in Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas, with the Court ruling for the insurer.

The injured insured settled a lawsuit with the tortfeasor’s insurer for $50,000 in March of 2012, and then filed a UIM claim with his own insurer. The insurer continually investigated the claim, and ultimately valued the insured’s injuries between $50,000 and $75,000. The insurer discounted the previously paid $50,000 amount from the March 2012 settlement in its own settlement offers.

The insurer initially offered $7,500, but increased its offer six times in a span of 10 months through a course of ongoing negotiations, upon receiving new information during that time. The insured refused to settle for any amount less than the $100,000 UIM policy limits. When the insured ultimately produced documentation that his injuries were regressing, and that he may never live pain free again, the insurer offered $100,000, which the insured accepted.

The insured then sued for bad faith, arguing that (1) the insurer had no reasonable basis for its negotiating position at any time during the ten-month period; and (2) the insurer acted in bad faith for its consistent undervaluation of the claim. After a six-day bench trial, the Court found in favor of the insurer.

The Court found that a ten-month claim window is inherently unreasonable, and the evidence suggested that the claim continually had ongoing developments complicating the evaluation process. The Court further found that “[e]ach step of the way, [the insurer] acknowledged and credited new information and responded accordingly,” and low but reasonable settlement offers do not amount to bad faith.

The Court further found that defense counsel instructing its IME expert to delay writing his report was not done to unreasonably prolong negotiations, but to control litigation costs when counsel believed the case was on the eve of settlement. Lastly, the Court found that, when discounting the March 2012 settlement, all of the insurer’s offers fell within “the total valuation for UIM liability.”

Date of Decision: November 2, 2017

Camiolo v. Erie Insurance Exchange, July Term 2015 Case No. 1750, (C.C.P. Phila. Nov. 2, 2017) (Colins, J.)

Our thanks to Dan Cummins of the wonderful Tort Talk Blog for bringing this case to our attention.

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