The genesis for this post is a jury trial that Merlin Law Group attorneys Mike Duffy, Jon Bukowski, and Larry Bache recently won. Jon Bukowski sent me a transcript of the closing arguments with a comment about Mike Duffy’s closing being “the best.”
Counsel for the insurer tried to make the argument that insurance adjusters cannot be expected to know building codes and that the policyholder’s contractor should work with the insurance company adjuster regarding the applicable building codes:
Also, there is inconsistent sharing of code provisions. It makes sense that a local contractor who works with the particular authority having jurisdiction will be the ones who knows what the code provisions are. It is unreasonable to assume that an insurance adjuster knows every code provision of every jurisdiction in every state. They have to rely on the contractor, and the contractor has got to work with them and help them. And we didn’t see a great deal of help from Mr. Kregos.
Duffy’s retort to that reasoning went as follows:
And as to codes and this victimization that, Who could know the codes? Who could know the codes!? To use a term that ESPN used when they’re advertising about two years ago, Come on, man. That just doesn’t sell. You got a computer, Google it. You got a phone, call the building department. You got a car, an Uber or a Lyft, go over to the building department.
I tried a case in Alabama with an Alabama lawyer, and as he would say right now, that dog don’t hunt.
This trial was about the wrongful claims practices of an insurance company. Most people refer to them as bad faith cases. Larry Bache likes to say that Merlin Law Group is a “Contender Not a Pretender” because we regularly take property insurance cases to trial rather than just settling out for the most you can obtain. As I write this blog, Dennis Bailey and Amy Currotto are in trial.
We study our rhetoric and try to commit to excellence, representing our clients against capable insurance defense counsel. I found Mike Duffy’s final closing words in summation compelling for this type of case where far too little money was initially paid and full payment was far too late:
[I]t has been long enough for no peace of mind; it has been long enough for lack of fair dealing; it has been long enough for the lack of timeliness response; it has been long enough, thanks to the lack of a full, fair, transparent investigation; it has been long enough as a result of a failure of management, a failure of supervision by an in-house adjuster. It just has.
In, Adjustment of Claims is 100 Percent Policyholder Service–Is The Insurance Industry Providing This Service?, I made the following observation about how some insurance companies treat their policyholders:
Property claims adjusters are supposed to promptly evaluate damage, investigate coverage, and provide full benefits to policyholders. Adjustment is about giving the customer the service promised and paid for when the policy was purchased. This service is not paid with ‘indemnity dollars,’ but with insurance company claims expense dollars, which insurance companies must spend to make certain their policyholders are promptly and fully receiving benefits.
…Last week, I again asked for construction estimates and analysis Zurich Insurance Company consultants made last fall regarding a governmental claim. You would think the response would be, ‘Gee Chip, we thought we gave that to your client months ago and will email them right away.’ Instead, everybody has to wait for Zurich claims management to give the ‘okay.’
In my speech last week in Manhattan, I referred to many claims organizations as the Three Monkeys –see no damage, hear nothing from the policyholder explaining damage, and never ever speak about all the benefits available under the policy and how to maximize recovery.
No wonder the public insurance adjuster industry has seen tremendous growth over the last decade. Policyholders need help, and many do not perceive it coming from their insurers. Perhaps the insurance industry should consider the pictorial maxim of the Three Wise Monkeys sometimes has a fourth monkey symbolizing the principle of do no evil.
Jury trials about insurance claims practices are important because the public gets to see how claims are actually handled. Further, the insurers are made accountable for not providing the peace of mind they promise at the point of sale.
Thought For The Day
All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.
—Martin Luther King Jr.