The District Court of Riley County, Kansas, issued a ruling today enforcing an $11,588,548 judgment against insurance carrier USAIG for its negligence and bad faith in handling a claim against its insured pilot following a fatal airplane crash. The ruling follows a May 2018 bench trial. The April 2013 plane crash killed pilot Ronald Marshall and sole passenger Chris Gruber, a husband and father of three young children from Manhattan, Kansas. As today’s ruling held, USAIG failed in the aftermath of the crash to promptly offer to pay the $100,000 in coverage available under Dr. Marshall’s insurance policy to the Gruber Estate, which resulted in an $11.5M judgment being entered against the Marshall Estate.
The Gruber Estate reached an agreement with the Marshall Estate not to pursue any assets of the Marshall Estate in exchange for being assigned the Marshall Estate’s right to pursue USAIG for the full judgment amount through a garnishment action. Garnishment is a mechanism through which an insurance carrier can be held liable for an amount in excess of its insured’s policy limits if the carrier is found to have committed negligence or bad faith in handling a claim.
That garnishment action was filed on behalf of the Gruber Estate in Riley County in August 2016 by Lynn Johnson and Daniel Singer of Kansas City law firm Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman. After the conclusion of the May 2018 trial, extensive briefing was submitted and reviewed by the court, culminating in today’s 66-page ruling by the Hon. Grant D. Bannister, who found that despite the Marshall Estate’s expressed desire to resolve the Gruber claim in the weeks and months following the crash, USAIG negligently and in bad faith failed to protect its insureds, declining to offer the $100,000 in available coverage for more than a year. As such, USAIG has been held legally responsible for paying the full $11,588,548 judgment originally entered against the Marshall Estate. Attorney fees and interest on the judgment will be considered by the court in subsequent proceedings.
If you believe your insurance company is improperly withholding benefits, please contact Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman today to consult with an attorney.