Plaintiff with catastrophic injuries says $15K policy limit demand not properly accepted, policy is open. Defense. Riverside County.

Summary

Affirmative defense on insurer's settlement offer nets plaintiff with catastrophic injuries just $15,000 policy limits.  Plaintiff claimed that defendant insurer had "opened up" its policy.

The Case

  • Case Name: Carachure v. Scott
  • Court and Case Number: Riverside Superior Court / RIC1309555
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, August 30, 2018
  • Type of Action: Insurance – Bad Faith, Claims Handling
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Irma Asberry
  • Plaintiffs:
    Maria Carachure, 64.
  • Defendants:
    Celia Scott
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: Defense. Jury found that defendant had proven her affirmative defense of settlement, and rejected plaintiff’s argument that defendant’s insurer had failed to properly accept a $15,000 policy limit demand before the lawsuit was filed.
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 2 weeks.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 1/2 hours.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Bisnar Chase by H. Gavin Long, Newport Beach.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Demler, Armstrong & Rowland, LLP by James P. Lemieux and David A. Ring, Long Beach.

The Experts

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Timothy Walker, Esq., insurance, Long Beach.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Sherman M. Spitz, insurance, Irvine.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Sherman M. Spitz, Esq., insurance, Irvine.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Defendant Celia Scott, while driving at night, struck pedestrian Maria Carachure, causing catastrophic injuries. Plaintiff sued for personal injuries and her attorneys sent a written settlement demand for her $15,000 insurance policy limits, but when defendant’s insurer, Safeco, accepted the demand, plaintiff’s then-counsel claimed that the terms had not been complied with and that the insurance policy was open. Plaintiff then filed suit for bodily injuries, contending the full value of the claim was $30 million. 

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendant's insurer failed to properly accept a $15,000 policy limit demand before the lawsuit was filed; contended that plaintiff was incapacitated and there was no guardian ad litem appointed when the defense claimed the case previously settled; further, that there was no consent by plaintiff to settle.

     

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant relied upon the policy limits settlement as a complete defense to plaintiffs’ claims.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Severe bodily injury (quasi-vegetative state).

Additional Notes

Per defense counsel:

Defendant admitted liability for the accident but relied upon the settlement as a complete defense to plaintiffs’ claims and the court ordered that a separate jury trial be conducted on the affirmative defense.  

 

The jury answered six different questions (12-0 on each), rejecting the arguments contended by plaintiff, namely that the carrier’s proposal release was “too broad” because it released all claims arising from the accident and not just those against Scott.

Per plaintiff's counsel:

Plaintiff is appealing the verdict; claiming that the judge committed reversible error by preventing the jury from considering lack of consent to settle, lack of capacity of the plaintiff and that no court approved settlement when the jury was asked to decide if the case had previously settled. 

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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