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Massachusetts Appellate Court Holds That Insurance Company’s $260,000 Settlement Offer Was Fair and Equitable in Light of $10,260 Jury Verdict

In a Cape Cod car accident case, the negligent motorist’s insurance company has certain obligations, including the duty to make a fair settlement offer if liability is clear. Of course, the question of what exactly constitutes fair offer can be subject to debate.

If, for example, an offer is refused and a jury trial results in a substantially higher verdict, the plaintiff has a good argument that the insurance company did not proceed in good faith. When the opposite happens – the jury returns a very modest verdict when compared to the insurer’s settlement offer – the plaintiff may have a difficult time convincing the court that the insurance company acted unfairly.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unpublished) case, the plaintiff was a woman who filed a personal injury lawsuit, on her own behalf and on behalf of her two minor children, against the defendants, an allegedly negligent driver, his employer, and their insurance company. Her claims included negligence, infliction of emotional distress, and violation of Mass. Gen. Laws chs. 93A and 176D claim. The plaintiff’s claims against the insurance company were stayed while the bodily injury claims against the remaining defendants proceeded to a trial by jury in 2015. At trial, the defendants admitted liability, and jury awarded damages of $10,260 to the plaintiffs; the verdict was affirmed on appeal.

The plaintiff sought to continue her suit against the insurance company, but the trial court entered summary judgment in the insurance company’s favor. The plaintiff appealed.

Decision of the Court

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the lower tribunal’s order granting summary judgment to insurance company. The court began by pointing out that the plaintiff had made three claims in her complaint: negligence, infliction of emotional distress, and violation of chs. 93A and 176D. In the court’s opinion, the plaintiff had failed to allege any act or omission by the insurance company that would have constituted negligence; thus summary judgment on that claim was proper in the court’s opinion. As to the plaintiff’s allegation that she had experienced emotional distress due to the conduct of the insurance company’s private investigator, the court found that the plaintiff had not produced any evidence to support this claim other than an unsupported assertion that she had “proof” that the investigator in question worked for the defendant.

With regard to the plaintiff’s ch. 93A and 176D claims regarding the defendant’s alleged failure to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of her claims when liability was clear, the court pointed out that “liability” encompassed both fault and damages. Here, the insurance company had offered to settle the case for $260,ooo in 2014, but the plaintiff had rejected the offer. In the court’s opinion, the jury’s verdict in a much lower amount was evidence that the insurance company had made a reasonable offer. Thus, the court found that summary judgment was proper as to these claims, as well.

Contact an Attorney to Discuss a Cape Cod Personal Injury Case

Fighting for fair compensation following a car or truck accident can be a very difficult task, but you don’t have to go it alone. The Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, offer Hyannis and Plymouth residents the experienced, knowledgeable legal advice needed in such a situation. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your Cape Cod car accident case, call us at 888-262-6664. You make the call – we’ll do the rest!