On September 17, 2014 the Fourth District Court of Appeal held in Geico General Insurance Company v. Kelly Paton that the amount of an underlying final judgment cannot be challenged by an insurer in a first-party bad faith action brought by an insured against an underinsured motorist carrier. A full copy of the opinion can be accessed here: https://caselaw.findlaw.com/fl-district-court-of-appeal/1678168.html
Kelly Paton was a passenger who was injured in a car accident due to the negligence of an underinsured driver. Uninsured/underinsured coverage was available with Geico in the amount of $100,000 but Geico failed to tender the policy limits to Kelly Paton. The case ultimately went to trial and a verdict was entered in the amount of $469,247. Thereafter, Kelly Patton brought a bad faith cause of action against Geico pursuant to Florida Statute §624.155 to recover the difference between the $100,000 policy limit and the $469,247 verdict. Geico argued that Kelly Patton should have to prove the amount of her damages again in the bad faith trial. The trial court and Fourth District Court of Appeal rejected Geico’s argument and held that Kelly Patton’s damages were conclusively established in the amount of $469,247.
This week, Struble, P.A. obtained a liability policy limit in the amount of $100,000 for a client and also obtained an uninsured motorist coverage limit in the amount of $50,000 for the same client who was injured in an accident. Had the uninsured motorist carrier failed to timely tender the policy limit the insurance company could have ultimately been liable for damages in excess of the policy limits. This leverage allowed us to obtain all policy limits available to our client within twenty days from the date of our demand.