The Sapienza’s purchased a home in an historic district in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, tore it down, and built a new home which the historic preservation board approved. However, the new house upset the neighbors who sued for injunctive relief (to include having the house torn down) arguing that the new structure violated certain height and setback restrictions. Liberty Mutual defended the Sapienza’s under a reservation of rights. The trial court in the underlying case granted injunctive relief after finding that “compensation would not provide adequate relief,” a ruling affirmed by the Supreme Court of South Dakota. The Sapienza’s were given 30 days to demolish their home which they did at the cost of more than $60,000.00. They then sued Liberty Mutual for breach of contract, both for failing to provide an adequate defense and for refusing to indemnify them for their out of pocket “damages”. They also filed three counts described as “bad faith” claims. The U.S. District judge granted Liberty Mutual’ s motion to dismiss the three bad faith claims, but denied the motion to dismiss the breach of contract claims. The judge gave plaintiffs 14 days to file a motion for leave to amend their complaint if they had a factual basis for alleging a breach of the duty to defend and certified a question to the South Dakota Supreme Court to decide whether “the costs the Sapienzas incurred to comply with the injunction constitute covered ‘damages’ under the Policies.”
We cover current issues, highlights and best practices exclusively on claims of bad faith and extra contractual damages.
Summary: After an evening of under-age drinking, Jacob Patton drove his father’s minivan while his friend, John Donaldson, rode in the passenger seat. When Jacob saw the sirens from a police car, he panicked and attempted to flee. After a short chase, Jacob lost control of the van and crashed into a tree. Donaldson was seriously injured and was hospitalized for almost a month. A blood analysis revealed Jacob had a blood alcohol content of .20.
Summary: State Farm rejected an injured car driver’s $35,000 offer to settle against State Farm’s insured who admitted negligence. The trial resulted in a judgment for nearly $225,000, well above the $100,000 per person limit. The Delaware trial court dismissed the resulting bad faith claim on statute of limitations grounds, relying on an earlier unpublished superior court opinion. In a case of first impression, the Supreme Court of Delaware abrogated the unpublished decision and held that the bad faith action accrued when the excess judgment against the insured became final and unappealable.
Iowa Rule: First-Party Bad Faith Claim Barred Because Not Brought With Breach of Contract Suit Against Insurer
Summary: The insured made significant improvements to its building, thereby increasing building’s value. Insurer made initial payments to insured under building, personal property and business income coverages. After substantial negotiations between insurer and insured’s counsel, insured filed breach of contract action against insurer. Insured won at trial, and insurer paid the judgment and interest and obtained a satisfaction of judgment.
Summary: After its insured, Lawrence Saks, wrongfully obtained disability benefits under his insurance policy, National Life Insurance Company sued Saks for fraud. Saks counterclaimed with a claim for breach of good faith and fair dealing. At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of National Life on its fraud claim and a zero-dollar verdict in favor of Saks on his counterclaim. Both sides appealed.