October

In Court of Appeals news, Frank Patterson and Brian Kennedy had a recent victory after briefing and presenting oral arguments before the Colorado Court of Appeals in the case of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Mabel Garcia, 15CA1771.  In an opinion issued on October 27, 2016, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling on State Farm’s summary judgment motion that a second household automobile policy covering a vehicle that was not involved in the accident did not provide additional liability coverage (See below for an excerpt of the court’s recitation of the background of the case).

On October 18, 2016, Mr. Patterson presented oral arguments in this case before the Colorado Court of Appeals at Fairview High School.  This case and its attorneys were selected for this special session of the Court of Appeals as part of the Judicial Branch’s Courts in the Community program. Counsel presented arguments in front of a large audience of students and community members and answered questions from the audience following their arguments.

Background

This case involves the interpretation of an auto liability policy. In 2012, Garcia was injured in a collision with State Farm’s insured, Susan Leavitt. Garcia sued Leavitt, seeking compensation for her injuries sustained in the accident. On the date of the accident, Leavitt was insured by two separate State Farm automobile insurance policies. Policy 1 insured Leavitt’s Volvo XC70 for liability up to $100,000. Policy 2 insured a Ford Explorer owned by Leavitt and her husband for liability up to $500,000. At the time of the accident, Leavitt was driving her Volvo XC70. Garcia asserts that Policy 2 provides coverage for the collision between Leavitt’s Volvo and Garcia. State Farm disagrees. . . . The district court entered summary judgment for State Farm, concluding that Policy 2 does not provide coverage for the collision because Leavitt is not an “insured” within the terms of the policy definition.

State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Garcia, 15CA1771, slip op. at 1-2 (Colo. App. Oct. 27, 2016).

July

On July 13, 2016, attorneys Frank Patterson and Hillary Patterson obtained a directed verdict for the defendant in the case of My Roofer, Inc. v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company (Weld County District Court, 2015CV30425).

Plaintiff was a roofing company.  State Farm’s insureds suffered roof damages as a result of a hail/wind event.  State Farm determined decking was not damaged in the event, and damage to decking was excluded as wear, tear, and deterioration.  The insureds and the roofer argued State Farm should cover replacement cost of decking under OL coverage (Ordinance or Law) because code required replacement before new shingles were applied.  State Farm contended excluded damages for wear, tear, and deterioration are not restored under OL coverage.

The roofer replaced the decking and took an assignment from the owners for a breach of contract claim.  The roofer brought a first-party claim in its own right alleging unreasonable delay and denial pursuant to C.R.S. §§ 10-3-1115 and 10-3-1116.

The Honorable Judge Todd L. Taylor ruled on State Farm’s oral motion for directed verdict after Plaintiff rested its case-in-chief that.  Judge Taylor held that, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Plaintiff had not met its evidentiary burden on the breach of contract claim.  The evidence was overwhelmingly clear beyond doubt that the damage to decking was caused by wear, tear, or deterioration, and that the State Farm policy did not provide coverage for the loss.  All of Plaintiff’s claims were dismissed pursuant to C.R.C.P. 50.

Prior to trial, attorney Hillary Patterson successfully argued a pre-trial motion regarding Plaintiff’s spoliation of evidence, and the Court issued an order for adverse inference instruction.

June

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Susan Cary, 2015CV30260 was tried by Franklin D. Patterson and Lindsay M. Dunn in Boulder District Court and arose from a Declaratory Relief Action filed by State Farm seeking judicial determination that Ms. Cary breached her contract and voided UM/UIM coverage. Cary filed a lawsuit against another driver following a MVA in December of 2010. The other driver and the owner of the vehicle never answered the lawsuit so Cary obtained a default against them and set a date for a court hearing to establish her damages.  State Farm intervened in that lawsuit to defend its interests per Brekke. Concurrently with the intervention, State Farm was attempting to investigate her claimed injuries and damages.  In February 2015, State Farm denied Cary any coverage or benefits, claiming she had refused to cooperate as required by the policy, as she did not participate in any EUOs, nor did she ever provide medical releases. In November 2015, following an undefended damages trial, a judge in the first case entered judgment in excess of $826,000 (over $1.2 Million with interest and costs) against the other driver. After the judgment entered, Cary demanded State Farm pay her the $500,000 UM/UIM policy limits from the two policies.  State Farm refused to pay because of its prior denial. Against State Farm Ms. Cary claimed damages of over $1,000,000.

VERDICT: For State Farm on all claims. State Farm is seeking costs in excess of $85,000.

Heather Salg tried and won the case of Roland Jaramillo v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance (14cv34554)  in a 4-day trial in El Paso County District Court. This case involved a low-speed, rear-end motor vehicle accident. Plaintiff was transported to the hospital via ambulance and was claiming $60,000 in medical expenses at trial. He recovered policy limits of $25,000 from the tortfeasor and then sought underinsured motorist benefits from State Farm, as well as claimed wage losses. Due to lack of documentation substantiating the wage loss claim, State Farm offered $15,000 based on the received information. Plaintiff filed suit and then advised that there would not be additional information submitted to support the claim of lost wages. State Farm advanced the amount of its initial offer. However, at trial, Plaintiff claimed unreasonable delay. During litigation, defendant discovered that Plaintiff had numerous DUIs prior to the subject MVA. Defendant argued that these DUIs were relevant but was precluded to tell the jury the specific amount of DUIs, rather Defendant could use the word “numerous.” Defendant’s position at trial was that plaintiff had been adequately compensated and that he had failed to cooperate with State Farm by providing timely, complete and accurate wage loss information.

The final demand before trial was $85,000, with the final offer before trial being $5,000.

The jury returned a verdict for the defendant on all claims.


After 43 years of practice, Thomas J. Seaman, Of Counsel for Patterson & Salg has announced his retirement. Tom will be greatly missed and we wish him all the best in his retirement. 

May

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Susan Cary, 2015CV30260 was tried by Franklin D. Patterson and Lindsay M. Dunn in Boulder District Court and arose from a Declaratory Relief Action filed by State Farm seeking judicial determination that Ms. Cary breached her contract and voided UM/UIM coverage. Cary filed a lawsuit against another driver following a MVA in December of 2010. The other driver and the owner of the vehicle never answered the lawsuit so Cary obtained a default against them and set a date for a court hearing to establish her damages.  State Farm intervened in that lawsuit to defend its interests per Brekke. Concurrently with the intervention, State Farm was attempting to investigate her claimed injuries and damages.  In February 2015, State Farm denied Cary any coverage or benefits, claiming she had refused to cooperate as required by the policy, as she did not participate in any EUOs, nor did she ever provide medical releases. In November 2015, following an undefended damages trial, a judge in the first case entered judgment in excess of $826,000 (over $1.2 Million with interest and costs) against the other driver. After the judgment entered, Cary demanded State Farm pay her the $500,000 UM/UIM policy limits from the two policies.  State Farm refused to pay because of its prior denial. Against State Farm Ms. Cary claimed damages of over $1,000,000.

VERDICT: For State Farm on all claims. State Farm is seeking costs in excess of $85,000.

 

April

Katie Vogt vs American Family Mutual Ins. Co., 2015CV031731 tried by Franklin D. Patterson and Lindsay M. Dunn in Denver District Court was a case that arose from a condominium fire in November of 2014. Plaintiff claimed her insurance company, American Family, failed to pay all the benefits to which she was entitled.  She claimed American Family wrongfully concluded the HOA’s insurance company, Scottsdale, was primary for all Coverage A damages, including to the interior of her condo unit.  Am Fam then forced her to pursue Scottsdale even though she was not an insured under that policy.  Plaintiff made claims for breach of contract, unreasonable delay, and bad faith breach of contract. American Family denies it acted unreasonably or in bad faith.  American Family agreed the fire damaged both her property and that of the Homeowners Association, but that the Declarations and Covenants of the HOA required the association’s policy to be primary and to cover all damages, both interior and exterior.  American Family claimed that any delays were caused by the Homeowners Association, its property manager and its insurance company, Scottsdale Insurance, all of whom obstructed efforts to coordinate benefits and repairs because they were upset Ms. Vogt had negligently started the fire in violation of HOA regulations.  Finally, American Family claims that Plaintiff has failed to take steps herself to resolve the issues of coordination or to get repairs done after checks were issued.

VERDICT: For Defendant on all claims

Kevin Ripplinger tried and won the case of Campanini v. State Farm in a 3 day UIM trial in Arapahoe County District Court.  Plaintiff was involved in a minor rear-end accident while yielding to get on 225 at Parker.  Plaintiff was employed as a pharmaceutical representative with Eli Lilly at the time of the accident.  Plaintiff sued the tortfeasor, Liberty Mutual (UIM carrier for Eli Lilly) and State Farm (Plaintiff personal liability carrier).  Tortfeasor and Liberty Mutual settled out before trial for limits of $50,000 each.  Plaintiff had an additional $100,000 on UIM with State Farm.  Plaintiff claimed a permanent low back injury.  Plaintiff had preexisting back problem but claimed they resolved several months prior to the accident and that she was pain free.  Causation and damages were in dispute.  Jury determined Plaintiff had injuries and damages but that they were not caused by the accident.  The jury returned a verdict for the defense.  Plaintiff’s Motion for New Trial Denied.

March

Angela A. Stevens v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, dba State Farm Insurance, and aka Frontier Division of the State Farm Fire & Casualty Company of Bloomington, Illinois, 2014CV030309 was tried in Larimer County District Court by Franklin D. Patterson and Lindsay M. Dunn. This case arose from a MVA when the at-fault driver failed to yield while turning, resulting in a T-Bone collision, which resulted in Plaintiff settling liability claims at $50,000 limits. She demanded UIM limits, and State Farm concluded she had been adequately compensated by the BI limits.

Plaintiff brought 3 claims for relief: willful and wanton breach of contract, unreasonable delay/denial, and bad faith. State Farm denied it acted improperly, and asserted an affirmative defense of failure to cooperate.  The failures to cooperate included failure to timely respond to State Farm’s requests for information, concealment of relevant and important records, and failure to produce authorizations to allow State Farm to obtain records.  State Farm further contended Plaintiff’s treatment had been excessive and unreasonable, and that the great bulk of her medical complaints are due to pre-existing conditions or caused by other injury-producing incidents both before and after this incident.  State Farm also contested the reasonableness and cost of the medical care Plaintiff received. In closing, Plaintiff’s attorney asked for $700,000 in non-economic and exacerbated disability damages.

VERDICT: For Defendant on all claims.

Defendant’s costs exceed $40,000The jury verdict indicated Plaintiff’s total damages were $53,000 above the amount of the BI coverage.  However, Plaintiff decided to pursue a willful and wanton breach of contract claim instead of a simple breach of contract claim.  The jury was only instructed on the elements of willful and wanton breach and the verdict was returned in favor of Defendant.