It Seems Princeton Failed to Keep the "Princeton Promise"

11/17/2008 | Unfair Insurance Practices/Bad Faith

Princeton Insurance Company has agreed to Pay $20 Million dollars to settle a claim brought by a bar. It seems Princeton failed to keep the "Princeton Promise," "Built on Trust-To Be There-To Do The Right Thing-To Lead." Well, let's take a look at how Plaintiff's attorney Robert Mongeluzzi achieved such a large bad faith verdict. All bad faith cases start as some other kind of lawsuit or dispute. This one started out as Tuski v. Ivyland Cafe, Ltd.. Joseph Tuski was a construction worker who was working on a highway project when he was hit by a drunk driver and left a quadriplegic. Tuski sued the driver as well as the where he worked as a manager. The case went to trial and a Philadelphia jury awarded Tuski $75 million (including $25 million in punitive damages). The trial judge reduced the award by cutting it in half. The reduced award of $37.5 million was affirmed on appeal by the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Following the verict, a lawsuit was brought against the bar's insurance company alleging they could have settled the lawsuit by paying the bar's million dollar insurance limits. The suit alleged Pennsylvania Insurance acted in bad faith by refusing to settle the case and forcing it to trial. In court papers, the plaintiffs team argued that the insurer had "actual knowledge" of Tuski's "devastating injuries" and also knew within the first few months of litigation that the Ivyland Cafe "had no possible defense" against Tuski's claim. "Any rational insurance professional would have recognized that a Philadelphia jury would find Joe's condition so compelling, and the circumstances of this loss so heinous, as to guarantee an enormous verdict," the plaintiffs team wrote in a court brief. But the brief said "Princeton repeatedly ignored the facts, the law and the advice of its own appointed counsel, steadfastly refusing to make any offer whatsoever to settle the claim." Underlying the significant injuries, was the outrageous conduct of the drunk driver. Not only was he the manager of the bar, he fled the scene of the accident. He crashed he car a second time on the way to his home. He then had his girlfriend drive him to his sister's house who promplty called the police. So, what are the elements of a huge bad faith verdict? 1. Inncocent victim (Tuski was simply doing his job), 2. Significant Injuries (Tuski was left a paraplegic) 3. Clear Liability of defendant (drunk driver had a BAC of .12 several hours after the wreck) 4. Aggravating Facts (drunk driver fled the scene, denied drinking, refused a breathalyzer) 5. Unreasonable Denial of Settlement (based on 1-4, it was obvious the case was worth well in excess of the $1 million dollar limits available and should be settled quickly) 6. Forcing Victim to Litigate for Years instead of giving them the money the need to cope with the injuries. Put all these together and you have a signficant chance of holding an unreasonable insurance company responsible in a bad faith case.

Hans Poppe