Florida, Jan. 19. A Federal District Judge in Florida has granted summary judgment in favor of Titan Insurance Co. in a bad faith case, finding that the insured’s lack of responsiveness during a time limits settlement demand precluded the case from proceeding further.
In Hinson v. Titan Ins. Co., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121666 (N.D. Fla. 2015), Chief Judge M. Casey Rodgers dismissed a third party bad faith suit arising out of an excess verdict against Titan’s insured, Hinson. During an underlying personal injury case against Hinson, the plaintiff’s lawyer issued a 20 day settlement demand for policy limits, requiring among other things an affidavit from Hinson as to any other applicable insurance.
Titan’s claims personnel made multiple attempts to alert Hinson, including the hand delivery of a draft affidavit to his address, in an effort to comply with the terms of the time limits demand. Chief Judge Rodgers wrote:
Hinson failed to timely return the required affidavit to meet the [terms of the time limit] demand…The totality of the circumstances demonstrate that Titan diligently pursued a settlement; advised Hinson of the risks of an excess judgment, of settlement opportunities, and the probable outcome of the litigation; and tendered checks on more than one occasion.
Hinson at 15-16.
The Court found that the failure to meet the conditions of the 20 day time limit demand were therefore attributable to the insured, not Titan, and entered judgment for Titan.
The Court also found that Titan’s refusal to agree to try the bad faith claim before the personal injury action and pay the limits to the personal injury plaintiff if the insurer prevailed in the bad faith case (known in Florida as a “Cunningham agreement”) was not bad faith as a matter of law.
Takeaway: There is nothing new under the sun here, although the case is a perfect illustration of two key components of dealing with time limit personal injury settlement demands: 1.) claims staff must make Herculean efforts to act on the insured’s behalf within the demand window, and before it is too late; and 2.) those efforts must be re-traceable in a well-d0cumented claims file. For additional information on defensive handling of time limit settlement demands, reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-731-4800.
Hinson v. Titan Ins. Co., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121666 (N.D. Fla. 2015),