I tried my first insurance bad faith case in Arizona three weeks ago. Prior to trial, CSAA refused to timely and completely adjust a claim for my client, whose home was fire damaged while she was on vacation. The most egregious conduct was when the carrier did approve repairs. They based it solely on what CSAA would pay and not on what was actually required.
There were two causes of action: breach of contract and bad faith. During trial, the court allowed the defendant, for the first time, to tell the jury the fire claim was still active and that it would adjust the claim, so I focused on the bad faith handling of the contract and the emotional distress that was caused to my client. I did the voir dire, as well as the direct for my client, her contractor, the pricing expert contractor and then finally I did the closing.
In spite of several hours of working with her, my client just would not open up. During our work outside of court, she was talkative and quite emotive. On the stand she froze. I was lost as to how to talk with the jury about what emotional distress harm the carrier’s conduct had truly caused. So, I asked our graphics tech her impressions about my client’s testimony. About a day later, our tech sent me an email which set out what she had seen and heard from a woman’s perspective. Her thoughts and observations were so poignant and beautiful that when it came time during my close to argue the emotional distress harms, I word for word read her email.
There was no medical testimony and no corroborating witnesses to our client’s emotional distress. The jury verdict was in the amount of $1,000,000.00 solely based on my client’s emotional distress. Under AZ law, the defendant will now have to pay her attorney’s fees and 10% interest on the verdict. When all is tallied up the verdict awarded to my client will be just about $1,800,000.00.
Fighting for the People | Gerry Spence | TEDxJacksonHole
Renowned trial lawyer Gerry Spence reflects on justice in a powerful personal retrospective.