SUPREME COURT ACCEPTS APPEAL IN BERG V. NATIONWIDE ON WHETHER SUPERIOR COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN REWEIGHING EVIDENCE (Pennsylvania Supreme Court)

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Of the thousands of statutory bad faith cases since section 8371’s creation, Berg v. Nationwide stands at the top of the list. The case started in 1998. One of the plaintiffs has since passed away. In 2014, Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey K. Sprecher awarded plaintiffs bad faith damages of $21,000,000. In 2018, the Superior Court reversed that $21,000,000 judgment.

This past Friday (March 29, 2019), the Supreme Court made known that the litigation will go into its third decade when it granted an appeal from that Superior Court decision, on the following three issues:

  1. [D]oes an appellate court abuse its discretion by reweighing and disregarding clear and convincing evidence introduced in the trial court upon which the trial court relied to enter a finding of insurance bad faith?

  2. [D]id the Superior Court abuse its discretion by reweighing and disregarding clear and competent evidence upon which the trial court relied to support its finding of insurance bad faith [pursuant to the standard set forth in Rancosky v. Washington Nat’l Ins Co., 170 A.3d 364 (Pa. 2017)]?

  3. Does an insurer that elects under an insurance contract to repair collision damage to a motor vehicle, rather than pay the insured the fair value of the loss directly, have a duty to return the motor vehicle to its insured in a safe and serviceable condition pursuant to national insurance standards, and pursuant to its duty of good faith and fair dealing?

The Order granting the petition on these three issues can be found here, in Berg v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., No. 569 MAL 2018 (Pa. Mar. 29, 2019).

A summary of the Superior Court’s 2018 decision is posted here, and amendment thereto is posted here.

A summary of Judge Sprecher’s 2014 trial court decision awarding $21,000,000 can be found here.

Judge Sprecher’s ruling followed an earlier 2012 Superior Court decision in Berg, summarized here. This 2012 opinion has proven influential. A quick Lexis search shows it being cited 70 times.

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