Farmers Insurance Asks 9th Circ. To Overturn $5.7M Verdict Over Crash Injuries


USA Herald – This is the case of Barbara Stein et al. v. Farmers Insurance Co. of Arizona et al., in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

A subsidiary of Farmers Insurance has asked the Ninth Circuit to overturn a $5.7 million award to Barbara Stein, who accused Farmers of bad faith for not paying the full policy limits for injuries she sustained in an automobile accident.

Farmers, who are represented by Mitchell C. Tilner and Curt Cutting of Horvitz & Levy LLP and Andrew S. Hollins of Messner Reeves LLP, argued in their brief that Ms. Stein failed to prove her claim.

On Monday, Farmers Insurance Co. of Arizona filed a 75-page opening brief arguing that its decision to not offer the full $500,000 policy limit to Ms. Stein after the accident was based on her “lengthy history of prior conditions and surgeries” in addition to a doctors written opinion who concluded that some of Ms. Stein’s claimed injuries were not a result of the car accident.

Farmers also cast doubt on Ms. Stein’s so-called self-owned jewelry business and her claim for lost income. The insurer said that it rightly denied this claim because the business was “nonexistent” and that she never really sold any jewelry, and therefore never lost any income.

According to court documents, Farmer paid $175,000 to Ms. Stein and then offered to pay an additional $95,000 relating to her claims, but Ms. Stein argued that Farmers acted in bad faith by not paying the full policy limits.

This dispute appears to have resulted from a car crash that occurred in September 2018 while Ms. Stein, a 66-year-old woman, and her husband, Stuart Stein were driving their vehicle.

According to court documents, the car that the Steins’ were driving, was rear-ended by an uninsured motorist, causing the Stein’s car to roll over onto its side.

Ms. Stein was treated at the scene of the accident by responding emergency ambulance technicians, and according to Farmers, she only claimed to have minor injuries at the time.

Farmers said that she was seen by doctors after the crash, but scans found no bleeding in her brain and nothing broken in her neck or left hand, which addressed her claims of pain and discomfort.

Farmers paints a suspicious picture of Ms. Stein shopping for a physician who would validate her purported injuries, stating that after the incident, Ms. Stein visited her doctor, complaining of pain in her neck and hand, and then visited her optometrist, complaining of seeing flashing lights and having unexplained headaches.

Farmers said that none of the doctors found anything abnormal except for the fact that she had an extra bone in her foot, and her optometrist determined that she was experiencing age-related conditions which were causing her to see the flashing lights and to have the headaches she was experiencing.

But by February 2019, Ms. Stein was claiming that she had suffered multiple injuries and that she had been planning to start a jewelry business but that her injuries prohibited her from doing so.

Farmers eventually offered to settle Ms. Stein’s claims by paying her the additional $95,000, but she refused and proceeded to trial where she received a $5.7 million verdict against the insurer.

Sometimes it pays to take it all the way to trial. We’ll continue to keep you informed of any new developments in this case.