Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Lehigh County Court Judge Slams Carrier With Million Dollar Bad Faith Verdict


Tort Talkers may recall that, back in January of 2020, the bad faith case of Unterberg v. Mercury Ins. Co., No. 2016-C-806 (C.P. Leh. Co. 2020 Pavlack, J.) was reviewed.  In that decision, the court entered judgment in favor of a Plaintiff and against the carrier on both a breach of contract claim and on a statutory bad faith claim with the bad faith damages to be determined in a separate hearing. 

This case arose out of the carrier’s denial of a theft and/or vandalism claim relative to the insured’s vehicle. 

According to the findings of the court, there was no reason to believe that the insureds had anything to do with the theft or the vandalism of their vehicle. 

After reviewing other issues to support its opinion, the court found that the carrier breached its contract and that the carrier had no basis to deny the claim particularly where employees of the carrier had admitted that the vehicle was vandalized based upon the investigation completed. 

The court also found that the carrier knew or recklessly disregarded its lack of a reasonable basis in denying the claim presented. Accordingly, the court held that the carrier acted in bad faith when it denied the insurance claim of the Plaintiff. 

Anyone wishing to review a copy of that prior January of 2020 decision may click this LINK.

By way of update, on October 15, 2020, the same Judge in the same case entered her decision on the damages aspect of the case.  After reviewing the facts and the current state of Pennsylvania regarding the award of damages in a bad faith case, the court entered an Order awarding the Plaintiff's in excess of $1 million dollars.  Included within that decision was an award of $900,000 in punitive damages.

Anyone wishing to review the Court's detailed Order on the issue of damages, may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney Steven A. Bergstein of the Allentown, PA law firm of Engel, Weiner, Bergstein and Fleischaker for bringing this decision to my attention.

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