Bad Faith Verdict for Carrier: The Story Behind Bocian v. Owners Insurance Company

Zupkus & Angell attorneys Muliha Khan and Erica Payne secured a defense victory at trial in Adams County on two out of three claims arising out of a UM/UIM claim following a car accident. Although the jury found that a breach of insurance contract had occurred, the jury also found that Plaintiff simply could not prevail on her claims of common-law and statutory bad faith. The jury’s decision prevented Plaintiff from recovering treble damages on her bad faith claim.

Prior to trial, defense counsel filed a C.R.E. 702/Shreck motion to preclude expert testimony of Plaintiff’s economic expert, arguing that the expert’s application of his methodology was flawed. The Court agreed, striking the expert and any mention of his report. The judge’s ruling further bolstered the defense argument that Owners had been reasonable in requesting additional information from Plaintiff (which Plaintiff never provided) as part of its evaluation of Plaintiff’s economic loss claim.

Cases such as this rarely go to trial—particularly in state court—for two primary reasons: (1) the threat of treble damages; and (2) the complexity of the subject matter. Add the notorious unpredictability of a jury trial to the mix, and the risk of the unknown often weighs heavily in favor of pre-trial settlement. 

Another important factor is the subject matter. While the law itself is not generally known as a particularly accessible subject, insurance bad faith occupies an even smaller niche within the legal community. It is a nuanced area of the law that often requires expert assistance, as evidenced by the increasing demand for claims handling expert witnesses. Even then, it is not always easy to explain to a lay person.

Ms. Khan and Ms. Payne took this case to trial because the defense’s pre-trial motions practice (including the winning C.R.E. 702/Shreck motion) had effectively narrowed the issues in the case and because they had developed strong legal and factual arguments that they believed would result in a favorable outcome for the client. Ultimately, because this case went to trial, and because the defense was able to prevail on both bad faith claims, this outcome undoubtedly represents a  victory for insurers defending against bad faith claims in Colorado. 

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