Jury Awards $3.4 Million Verdict to NKY Man Represented by Covington Lawyers
Tue, 10/02/2012 - 19:39 RCN Newsdesk
After an eight-day trial, a Campbell Circuit Court jury on Monday awarded a Union man $3.425 million, including punitive damages, against the Indiana Insurance Company for insurance bad faith.
The 12-person jury found that Indiana Insurance violated the Kentucky Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act, the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act, and breached the insurance contract with its policyholder, James Demetre.
“This verdict should send a clear message to Indiana Insurance and the insurance industry in general that you must treat your policyholders fairly and in good faith, and if you fail to do so, you will be held accountable in a court of law,” said Jeffrey Sanders, who represented Demetre in the legal action.
In 2000, Demetre and his wife acquired property in Newport, and later insured it with Indiana Insurance. The property, which has been vacant for 50 years, formerly housed a gasoline station. However, the station closed in 1962 and its underground storage tanks were removed in 1998.
In 2009, a family living near this property sued Demetre, alleging that petroleum fumes were flowing into their house from his property. The family claimed personal injuries and property damages and demanded that Demetre pay $10 million in damages.
After Demetre turned the claim over to Indiana Insurance, instead of investigating the claim by Demetre, the insurance company sued him. Indiana Insurance claimed that it had no responsibility to cover the neighbor’s claim or defend the lawsuit against Demetre. Demetre then hired Sanders, who fought with the insurance company for more than three years to cover the claim.
Indiana Insurance ultimately paid the family’s claim, but Sanders sued the insurance carrier for insurance bad faith, arguing that the company had breached its insurance contract with Demetre and failed comply with Kentucky law.
The jury awarded Demetre $925,000 in compensatory damages for emotional pain and suffering, stress, worry, anxiety, and mental anguish. At trial, Demetre testified that his experience was a “four-year nightmare” and told the jury about the stress and anxiety he suffered at the hands of his own insurance company.
The jury also awarded Demetre $2.5 million in punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded to punish defendants who act with reckless or wantondisregard for the safety, security, rights, and well-being of others.
Under Kentucky law, Sanders and his legal team also are entitled to recover attorneys’ fees. Sanders estimates that total attorney fees in the complex case far exceed $500,000.
Sanders tried the case with his brother, Robert E. Sanders. Other members of the trial team were Justin Sanders, Matt Nakajima, Irene Wolfe, and Mary O’Neill. The expert witness who testified for Demetre at trial was Erlanger attorney Carl Grayson.
“Jeff spent three years preparing this case for trial and did an excellent job in the courtroom,” said Robert Sanders, a former president of the Kentucky Justice Association, the association of Kentucky civil trial lawyers. “He recognized the potential of the case from the beginning, nurtured it masterfully through the discovery phase, and executed in a way that made a very complicated case understandable to the jury.”
SOURCE: press release