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The "Farmers Insurance News-Alert" website is dedicated to providing the consumer and general public with detailed information concerning the Farmers Insurance Group. This includes fraud reports, consumer complaints, lawsuit's and other legal actions taken against this company. All information contained herein is for educational purposes only. Original sources, when known are sited.

 

Insurer Hit With $20 Million Punitive Verdict In Auto Case

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A jury on April 29 awarded the estate of Marc E. Goddard $20 million in punitive damages against Farmers Insurance Company of Oregon, finding that the insurer exposed its insured to an excess verdict (Margie A. Goddard, as Personal Representative for the Estate of Marc E. Goddard v. Farmers Insurance Company of Oregon, No. 9005-03204, Ore. Cir., Multnomah Co.).

(Verdict Form. Document #07-020515-106V.)

John Munson worked on a tree farm owned by Helen Foley. In October 1987, Munson, who was driving Foley's pickup truck, made a left-hand turn directly in front of a car driven by Goddard. Goddard, who was 19 at the time, was killed. Munson was legally intoxicated at the time of the accident

Foley and Goddard were both insured by Farmers with $100,000 auto policies. Farmers failed to respond to inquiries from Goddard's family lawyer on coverage information until the summer of 1988, when it responded that there were two $100,000 policies, according to Kevin Strever of Barton & Strever in Newport, Ore., who represented the estate at trial.

Munson was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide in 1988. Goddard's mother, Margie A. Goddard, as representative of her son's estate, sued Munson and Foley for wrongful death. In June 1988, the estate sent Farmers a demand letter for $200,000 with a 30-day time limit on the offer; Farmers did not respond. According to Strever, Farmers' claims records show that liability was clear and that Farmers had set a reserve at $30,000.

In December 1988, Farmers made an offer to settle for $30,000, 14 months after the accident. On the same date, Farmers filed a declaratory judgment action against all parties. In 1990, a jury in the wrongful death action awarded the estate $863,274 in damages against Munson. Munson assigned his rights against Farmers to the estate, and the estate filed a bad faith action against Farmers.

 

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