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Georgia Policyholder Wins Breach of Contract and Bad Faith Case Against State Farm

After a vandal broke the policyholder’s windows, flattened her tires and scratched her paint, State Farm refused to pay for towing costs, full car rental and full costs of repair, applying a different method of determining its payment obligations than those described in the policy.

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Attorney Eugene C. Brooks, founder of the Brooks Law Office, announced that the Georgia Supreme Court has refused to hear State Farm’s appeal of a 2014 verdict in a breach of contract and insurance bad faith case (case no. STCV1200617 filed in the State Court of Chatham County) against State Farm involving the owner of a Honda Accord who had insured under a State Farm policy in 2011.

That year, a vandal broke her windows, flattened her tires and scratched her paint. Court documents further state that the plaintiff selected Hernandez Collision Center (HCC) to repair her car, but State Farm refused to pay for towing costs, full car rental and full costs of repair, all of which were covered by the policy.

State Farm’s estimators testified that the plaintiff’s car could be repaired in Savannah, Ga., for $5,045. However, court documents state that HCC’s repair estimate was $9,589, over $4,000 more than the State Farm estimate. Shop managers from HCC appeared and testified at the trial.

“The evidence showed that State Farm applied a different method of determining its payment obligations than those described in the policy,” said Brooks. “State Farm applied an internal method based on its determination of what was a ‘competitive’ rate based on a survey that was not described in the policy. Under Georgia law, any ambiguity in the policy written by State Farm had to be interpreted in favor of our client, the policyholder.”

Court documents further state that State Farm’s refusal to pay full repair costs left the plaintiff owing HCC a balance of $4,297 for her car repairs, and that she paid $1,125 for her rental car. The jury returned a verdict favoring the plaintiff for all damages she sought, plus $5,000, the maximum penalty allowed under Georgia insurance bad faith statute. The jury also awarded her $30,000 in attorney fees.

State Farm appealed the jury verdict to the Georgia Court of Appeals on numerous issues, alleging that the trial court should have dismissed the case, had improperly instructed the jury and had admitted testimony that State Farm believed to be unduly prejudicial. The Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict without opinion and State Farm then filed the petition to the Georgia Supreme Court that was denied, allowing the plaintiff to execute on the judgement in her favor.

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