Failure to meet requirements of the Unfair Claims Act is negligence – Oklahoma Insurance Lawyers, Stauffer Nathan
In Roberts v. Printup, Ms. Roberts was injured in a one car accident. She was a passenger, her son Printup was driving. The accident was promptly reported to Shelter, the insurance company, and she received the limits of the medical payments. Eleven days before the statute of limitations ran on the claim, Roberts sent a letter to Shelter offering to settle for policy limits ($25,000) and estimating her medical bills to be in excess of $125,000. The letter said she needed a response within 10 days because of the statute of limitations. Ms. Roberts had an agreement with her attorney that if Shelter paid the claim upon demand, she would not owe any attorneys fees on the amount paid. Shelter did not respond for three weeks and then attempted to accept the offer. Ms. Roberts refused. After liability was admitted, a judge determined Ms. Roberts damages to be in excess of $1 million. Shelter paid its limits and Ms. Roberts then was assigned Printup’s claims against Shelter for the excess judgment.
The trial court granted summary judgment to Shelter on the claims of bad faith and negligence. The Tenth Circuit reversed, affirming the dismissal of the bad faith claim, but sending back the negligence claim. See, Roberts v. Printup, 422 F.3d 1211, 1212 (10th Cir. 2005). In the first appeal, the court found that Shelter’s failure to respond to Roberts letter within 10 days was a violation of the Unfair Claims Practices Act as adopted by Kansas. In the second go around, the district court found that Shelter did not have a written policy, procedure, or mechanism in place to ensure that a claim would be acknowledged within ten working days, that Shelter was negligent in handling the letter and that Roberts was not trying to manufacture a bad faith claim. Nevertheless, the district court found that the failure to timely respond did not cause the excess judgment, thus ruling that Shelter was not liable for the excess judgment.
The Tenth Circuit reversed again. The court states:
It is readily apparent that it was foreseeable to Shelter that its negligence in failing to implement a system to handle reasonable time-sensitive settlement offers from an injured party could result in a lawsuit being filed against its insured. Accordingly, its attempt to accept the expired offer in this case did not absolve it of liability for damages to its insured caused by its earlier negligent failure to settle.
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Shelter did not give Mr. Printup’s interest the same consideration as its own or it would have set up an appropriate system to handle time-sensitive settlement offers.
The Tenth Circuit found that based on the district court’s findings, "it is apparent that it was Shelter’s failure to implement a system to handle reasonable time-sensitive offers in negligent disregard of its insured’s interest that exposed Mr. Printup to damages in excess of policy limits." Thus, the court reversed and remanded the case with directions to enter judgment in favor of Roberts.
If you are facing an insurance lawsuit, contact an experienced lawyer who knows how good insurance companies operate. A lawyer who knows how to represent your case or win you a settlement, will know how to get your claim paid when bad insurance companies take your hard earned money and deny your claim.