Defense tactics in personal injury litigation in Massachusetts can get aggressive. In a recently issued Massachusetts Appeals Court opinion, Anderson v. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co. (14-P-1554), a severely injured man waited 10 years for an award of over $3 million. Even after this delay and the subsequent payment, the defendants filed another appeal of the original jury verdict award and the additional interest granted by the judge after the first unsuccessful appeal. The injured man and has family also appealed, arguing the defendants failed to provide a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement from the 1998 accident.
The man was catastrophically injured while walking across an intersection when he was struck by a hospital shuttle bus owned and staffed by the hospital. Even after receiving immediate care from doctors riding the bus as passengers, the injured man endured several months of hospitalization and care for his numerous head injuries. Following the accident, an investigation took place at the behest of the automobile insurer used by the hospital shuttle bus. The investigation concluded that the accident happened due to the driver’s inattention, and the liability and exposure was clear and exceeded the policy’s limits. The investigator recommended negotiating an out-of-court settlement, but negotiations never took place.
Instead, the insurers took another path by using what the trial judge called “irresponsible and overly-aggressive defense work on the part of the [insurer].” Some of the insurance company’s actions included suppressing crucial evidence that went against their theory that the injured man ran in and out of traffic between parked cars and darted in front of the bus. The injured man and his family pursued evidence of the initial investigation throughout the trial, but they were repeatedly told that the investigation reports, witness interviews, and transcripts didn’t exist. It took an offhand comment from a reconstruction expert five years after the accident to reveal that there was additional material available.
None of the defendant insurers made any settlement proposals until the day before the trial. Despite the trial judge’s opinion about the lack of success of an appeal, the defendants appealed anyway, which caused an additional five-year delay of payment. After the appeal was denied, the original amount, adjusted for pre- and post-judgment interest, was paid by the insurance company. In this action, both sides appealed the last order. The appellate court agreed with the injured man and his family that the insurers unjustifiably failed to settle the claims prior to trial and for several years after the trial, and it upheld the original award and award of post-judgment interest. The Court of Appeals took the view of the trial judge that the defendants’ behavior was unacceptable and in violation of Massachusetts General Laws regarding settlement. While the court did not adopt the plaintiffs’ positions that individual sections of the insurer should be held liable or about the beginning date of post-judgment interest, it did award the appellate attorney’s fees and and costs associated with the cross appeal.
Anderson shows the lengths insurance companies will go to in avoiding payment. The Massachusetts personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan have the experience you need to push back against overly aggressive defense tactics. For a free, confidential consultation, call our office today at 508.822.6600.
More Blog Posts:
Massachusetts Supreme Court Ruling Allows Injured Couple to Keep Millions in Awarded Damages, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, September 28, 2015
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Affirms Multi-million Dollar Verdict in Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Suit, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, September 15, 2015