Horvitz & Levy LLP successfully defended a jury verdict in favor of an insurance company in a third-party insurance bad faith case. The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the trial court judgment, rejecting the plaintiff’s arguments that the insurer took too long to settle on its insured’s behalf.
The plaintiff was seriously injured in an accident as the passenger in a car driven by his friend, who was driving drunk. The driver was insured by the defendant insurance company. The insurer quickly made inquiries of plaintiff’s wife and family about plaintiff’s medical condition and requested medical records for verification. But plaintiff’s family did not readily cooperate with the insurer’s efforts, and the insurer did not receive plaintiff’s medical records until almost two months after the accident. As soon as the insurer received plaintiff’s medical records (about 50 days after the accident), it sent plaintiff and his wife an offer to pay the policy limits on the driver’s policy to settle the case. Plaintiff refused the policy limits offer and eventually sued the driver, which resulted in a substantial jury verdict in plaintiff’s favor against the driver. The driver assigned his rights under the insurance policy to plaintiff in exchange for a covenant not to execute on the judgment. Plaintiff then sued the insurer for bad faith failure to settle in a timely fashion, as well as for failure to maintain reasonable claims handling procedures and related claims. These claims were tried to a jury, which rendered a verdict in the insurer’s favor. Plaintiff appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.
The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed, holding that substantial evidence supported the jury’s verdict that the insurer made ongoing and diligent efforts to verify the nature and scope of plaintiff’s injuries, and that the time period between the accident and the insurer’s policy limits offer was not unreasonable. It also held that substantial evidence supported the jury’s verdict that the insurer did not breach its duty to investigate plaintiff’s injuries, to adopt reasonable standards for claims handling, and to inform the insured driver about plaintiff’s claim. The Nevada Supreme Court also affirmed the trial court’s denial of plaintiff’s new trial motion, which was based on various attorney misconduct contentions and related evidentiary and instructional error arguments. The Nevada Supreme Court concluded that most of these arguments were waived, and that none of them presented the possibility of plain error warranting reversal.