Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Injured Parties’ Ability to Seek Damages From Doctor’s Insurance Company

Massachusetts General Laws G.L. C. 176D and G.L. C. 93A are designed to help protect the citizens of the Commonwealth from unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the business of insurance. An injured party has a right to file a claim against the insurer of the at-fault party if they “fail to effectuate prompt, fair and equitable settlements of claims in which liability has become reasonably clear.” The Court of Appeals recently allowed a group of injured plaintiffs in a medical malpractice suit (Conry vs. Reilly, 14-P-506) to add claims against the insurer of one of the defendant doctors. They alleged that the insurer failed to make the reasonable settlement offer after liability had become reasonably clear during the course of litigation.

The insurer moved to dismiss, but the trial judge allowed the plaintiffs’ motion to proceed. The insurer appealed, but the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision to allow the injured parties’ motion to add the insurer The Court of Appeals looked to Chiulli v. Liberty Mut. Ins., Inc., 87 Mass. App. Ct. 229, 232 (2015). In this case, a man was severely injured in a fight outside of a restaurant, suffering a skull fracture and remaining in a coma for almost three months. The staff testified that they sensed a fight would happen between two groups at the bar, but they had not been trained on safety rules and did nothing to prevent the fight from happening.

Prior to the suit, the injured man sent a demand letter to the insurer of the restaurant with a copy of the receipts for medical expenses. The injured person argued that at least the medical expenses were provable through the receipts, but the amount of earning capacity was disputed, within estimates ranging from $413,532 to $1,589,949. That meant there was an undisputed amount of damages in the amount of $1,075,460. However, the insurer only offered to settle for $150,000. The injured person won a jury award of nearly $4.5 million dollars against the restaurant, and the case settled amongst post-trial motions.

The injured man sent another demand letter to the insurer of the restaurant and a complaint against the insurer for failure to offer a reasonable settlement. The insurer tried to use the General Law to its advantage, but the Court of Appeals firmly believed that the law, while designed to offer protections to both consumers and insurers, could not be used as a constant shield. The court pointed out that the claims against the insurer had to be based on the failure to make a reasonable offer of settlement, instead of just exercising the right to trial.

The two appellate cases above illustrate the additional actions that can be taken alongside a medical malpractice case. Massachusetts general laws provide recourse against insurance companies that do not work toward a fair and timely settlement, thereby increasing the time and expense an injured party must use in order to receive the damages he or she deserves. The Massachusetts personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan aggressively push back against insurance companies and pursue all avenues of legal recourse for our clients. For a free, confidential consultation today, contact us at 508.822.6600.

More Blog Posts:

Appeals Court of Massachusetts Reviews What is a Necessary Piece of Safety Equipment, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, February 11, 2015
Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Reviewing Board Considers Questions of Permanent and Total Incapacity Benefits, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, February 26, 2015