Last week, a Georgia federal jury popped a motor carrier liability insurer and its insured with a $21 million verdict in a wrongful death suit. According to the Complaint, the insured driver lost control of his tractor-trailer while driving on Georgia Highway 369. As a result, the trailer disconnected and overturned, injuring a pedestrian walking along the highway’s shoulder. The pedestrian eventually succumbed to his injuries, and his estate filed suit against the driver and the driver’s insurer under Georgia’s Direct Action Statute, which allows plaintiffs to name motor carrier insurers as defendants along with their insureds.

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In a recent insurer’s failure-to-settle case, Hughes v. First Acceptance Ins. Co. of Ga., the Georgia Court of Appeals reaffirmed that there is no hard-set rule conducive to summary judgment; rather, the court ruled that a jury should determine whether the insurer’s actions had been “reasonably prudent.”  Plaintiff Robert Jackson allegedly caused a five-vehicle collision that resulted in his death and the serious injuries of others, including Julie An and her minor child, Jina Hong.  An and Hong, through their counsel, communicated with Jackson’s insurance company, First Acceptance, stating that they were “interested” in settling their claims within Jackson’s policy limit of $25,000.  Counsel also requested that the insurer send him policy information within 30 days.  An later claimed that this communication represented an offer of settlement, when, 41 days later, they sent First Acceptance a letter withdrawing their “offer” and stating their intent to file suit due to the insurer’s failure to respond.  An and Hong then filed suit and were ultimately awarded $5,334,220 in damages.  First Acceptance paid $25,000 towards the award, leaving Jackson’s estate exposed to over five million dollars in damages.

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