I saw a very interesting appeal that went up to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Geico Auto Insurance has asked the Eleventh Circuit not to make them pay a $29.8 million verdict in a suit over an insured motorist’s death in a bad faith suit by the man’s widow, saying it hadn’t been able to properly appeal the verdict.
The Bottini appeal came from Geico’s appeal of a jury verdict rendered against it in an uninsured/underinsured motorist (“UIM”) case. Consistent with prior rulings, the trial court entered a judgment against Geico in the amount of the policy’s limit of liability, $50,000. Because the huge verdict had the effect of fixing the plaintiff’s damages in a subsequent bad faith case, Geico sought review of that verdict. It went to Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeals. The opinion that came down was confusing. After a series of other court rulings, the Middle District Court of Appeal for the United States accepted review of the case due to the conflicting decisions that were coming out of Florida pertaining to bad faith. The Middle District of Florida issued an order granting partial summary judgment to Ms. Bottini and ruling that the $29.8 million excess verdict from her underlying UM case is a binding determination of liability and damages. Bottini v. GEICO Gen. Ins. Co., slip op. no. 8:13-cv-365-T-17AEP (M.D. Fla. Sept. 23, 2014). The order goes through the history of the case and proceeds dismantle GEICO’s arguments one by one. The Middle District said that if there was an error, it was “harmless” because the final judgment was limited to $50,000, upholding the order in July 2012.
Now, the decision is at the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Geico appealed it because the judgment was limited by the policy, a Florida state appeals court declined to hear the insurer’s allegations of trial problems that led to the “exorbitant” verdict, Geico said. The company also argues the federal district court violated Geico’s right to due process when it bound the verdict to Bottini’s federal bad faith action, opening the way for her to seek the multi-million-dollar sum in that suit.
It will be interesting to see where the Court comes down on this issue.
The case is Geico General Insurance Co. v. Mary Bottini, case number 15-12266, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
If you would like to read Geico’s appeal click here: http://media.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/unpub/files/201410978.pdf