TAMPA — A U.S. district judge has denied motions by both the plaintiffs and defendants in a Florida woman’s bad faith lawsuit against an automobile insurer.
In his ruling, Judge James Whittemore of the U.S. District for the Middle District of Florida denied both motions, saying that federal law only allows a summary judgment when there are “no genuine dispute as to the material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Whittmore said that both parties raised several questions of fact in dispute and as such those questions are answered by a jury.
In December 2005 plaintiff Nicky Dudash was injured in a rear-end crash with David Heisig, according to court documents. At the time of the crash, Heisig was insured by defendant Southern–Owners Insurance Co. Heisig's police had a limit of $100,000 per person for bodily injury. Southern Owners never offered the policy limits despite Dudash obtaining a judgment of over $800,000 against its client Heisig.
At some point, Southern Owners offered the policy limits but the offer was refused and Dudash later filed a bad faith claim against the insurer as a proxy for Heisig.
Southern Owners' motion asked for summary judgment based on the claim that the company acted in good faith and that its action are undisputed. Whittemore denied Southern-Owners' motion, writing that a reasonable juror could conclude that the company’s delays were “willful and without reasonable cause.”
Dudash's motion for summary judgment was based on the claim that Southern Owners could have done its due diligence then offered to settle for the policy limits ins a reasonable time frame.
The judge denied Dudash’s summary judgment citing the holding of Morrison 323 F. 3d that a jury might regard the action of the insurance company to be reasonable and proper therefore the allegation of bad faith is a question for the jury to answer.
Whittemore remanded the case back for trial.