As the new year gets under way, cases that will shape the insurance landscape in 2019 continue to proceed.  Among them are First Acceptance Ins. Co. v. Hughes, in which the Georgia Supreme Court will address the prerequisites for a policyholder to sue its insurance carrier for bad faith based on the insurer’s failure to settle the underlying dispute for an amount within the available policy limits.  Hunton Andrews Kurth’s insurance practice head, Walter Andrews, was asked by Insurance Law360 to comment on the significance of that case.  As Andrews explained, the insurer’s position is inconsistent with Georgia law.  “Georgia law does not require some particular form of settlement offer — or even an offer at all — to create an insurer’s duty to settle claims against their insureds.” Rather, as Andrews explained, “that duty arises when the insurer knows or reasonably should know that not settling will create an ‘unreasonable risk’ of the insured suffering a judgment in excess of his or her policy limits, regardless of whether a third-party claimant has first presented a settlement offer. Most often, that should be a jury question and not something that is susceptible to summary judgment.”
Continue Reading Hunton Insurance Head Comments on Insurance Cases to Watch in 2019

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.

Continue Reading Georgia Appellate Court Makes Carrier Pay Dearly for Bad Faith Failure to Settle