Following receipt yesterday of a win our firm took to trial about a purely bad faith case with a verdict in the range of $1.4 million, I thought about an old friend and legal colleague, Rick Freidman. Rick encourages attorneys to take more of their clients’ civil cases to trial. Friedman has authored a number of books on the topic, as we have discussed in Rules Of The Road, by Rick Friedman. He makes the following points about why it is important for attorneys to regularly take their cases involving wrongful claims practices by insurance companies to trial:

Pursuit of Justice: Friedman emphasizes that the primary responsibility of attorneys is to seek justice for their policyholder clients. By taking bad faith claims practice cases to trial, attorneys can hold wrongful acting insurers accountable and ensure that policyholders receive fair compensation for their losses.

Empowering Policyholders: By pursuing litigation, attorneys can empower their clients by giving them a voice and an opportunity to share their story. This helps policyholders regain control and dignity after experiencing frustrating delays and underpayments by insurers who promised to act differently.

Deterrence of insurer misconduct: If more attorneys take their cases to trial, it serves as a deterrent to potential wrongful acting insurers. The prospect of being held publicly accountable in court can encourage individuals overseeing the claims departments to act responsibly and ethically.

Strengthening the civil justice system: Friedman argues that taking more cases to trial contributes to a robust and effective civil justice system. When attorneys consistently pursue litigation to uncover and develop the type of evidence needed for successful trial presentation, it sends a message that the legal system can and will hold insurance companies accountable for their wrongful claims practices.

Challenging unfair settlements: Friedman believes that taking cases to trial can help challenge unjust settlement practices. By refusing to accept inadequate offers, attorneys can send a clear message that they are committed to fighting for their policyholder clients’ best interests.

Maintaining integrity: Friedman advocates for attorneys to maintain their professional integrity by taking cases to trial when necessary. He believes that attorneys should not shy away from litigation simply because it is difficult or time-consuming; instead, they should prioritize their client’s needs and the pursuit of justice. The jury trial provides a sense of the community’s voice when bad faith cases are taken to trial.

Impacting legal precedent: By taking cases to trial, attorneys can contribute to the development of legal precedent. Successful litigation can lead to new case law that benefits not only their clients but also future litigants facing similar issues.

Educating the public: Trials can help educate the public about various issues, such as insurer misconduct or systemic problems within a given insurance company. Through litigation, we can raise awareness and potentially influence public opinion, which can lead to positive changes in society.

Building attorney trial skills: Friedman believes that attorneys should develop and hone their trial skills. Taking more cases to trial provides attorneys with valuable experience and helps them become more effective advocates because we develop expertise in the issues these cases pose.

One of my heroes, Martin Luther King, Jr., often mentioned in his speeches that the pilots who fly jets all over the world could never reach the skies if it were not for a dedicated, skilled, and passionate ground crew. In this case, our firm had extraordinary efforts from four non-attorneys, paralegals Agnieszka Karcz, Sherrol Hall, Christopher McTaggart, and law clerk Matthew Stalcup. The trial team was composed of Mike Duffy, Jon Bukowski, and Larry Bache.  

This Merlin Law Group team’s success serves as a deterrent to potential insurance company wrongdoers who know we will aggressively pursue litigation to trial. Ultimately, a policyholder law firm that takes cases to trial advances justice and upholds concepts of good faith and fair dealing. These efforts have a positive change within the insurance industry because policyholders can hold their insurers accountable for unreasonable claims practices. 

What were the alleged primary wrongful claims actions? While there were many, the two main ones, in my view, were delay and hiding an engineering report.

My impression is that the defense trial attorney brought into the case in later stages did a masterful and professional job defending his client. We certainly learned some lessons and will be even better prepared for our next trial. You do not get better at trial presentation by settling all of your cases.

Thought For The Day           

Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.

—Wilma Rudolph