The Ohio Seventh District Court of Appeals has upheld a $10 Million verdict awarded in January 2012 to two families as a result of Personal Service Insurance Company’s (PSIC) wrongful denial of insurance coverage benefits stemming from an April 2003 crash that claimed the life of one man and seriously injured two others.
The auto accident resulted in the death of Brian Bigler and serious injuries to his father, Howard Bigler. Donald Cox’s vehicle collided with the Biglers’ after going left of center while Cox was trying to adjust his sun visor on his car.
Cox and his wife had automobile insurance coverage with PSIC. However, after being notified of the crash by its agent, PSIC refunded the Coxes’ premiums four days after the wreck, claiming that the company had cancelled the policy over a month earlier.
The court upheld the jury’s verdict that PSIC’s denial of coverage and refusal to provide an attorney to Donald and Kathy Cox was done in bad faith and awarded $8 million in compensatory damages. Another $2 million in punitive damages were awarded because PSIC consciously disregarded the rights of the Coxes.
The Coxes’ attorney, National Trial Lawyers Top 100 attorney Jamie Bordas, of Bordas & Bordas in Wheeling, WV, said that this decision sends a message that insurance companies cannot treat their client’s customers in this manner. “The court reviewed and upheld the jury’s decision regarding this large insurance company’s total disregard for the rights of these Belmont County residents,” Bordas said. “It sends a message to insurance companies everywhere that when they promise to provide coverage and protect people who use their hard-earned paychecks to buy insurance, the insurance company had better make good on that promise when it is their turn to protect those people.”
PSIC had refused to provide coverage and had refused to meet the Bigler family’s settlement demand of only $50,000.00, which was the liability limit under the policy PSIC had sold to the Coxes. Because this would have completely released the Coxes from further liability, the Biglers sued Cox and obtained a judgment of $3,000,000.00 against him. Cox later assigned his claims against PSIC to the Bigler family so that the judgment that the family had obtained against Cox could be satisfied through any recovery against his insurance company.
Attorney Harry White of the law firm Banker & White in St. Clairsville represented the Bigler family at the trial and on appeal. Tom Mulvey and Lisa Haase of the Columbus, Ohio law firm of Curry, Roby, and Mulvey Co., LLC, represented PSIC, which had previously been headquartered in Columbus, OH.
The case is Bigler et al v. Personal Service Insurance Company et. al. Case: 12BE10. The appeals case is Civil Appeal from Common Pleas Court Case No. 05CV139