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General

In personal injury cases, plaintiffs attempt to recover damages for injuries allegedly caused by another party. In adjudicating such claims, courts necessarily must consider the medical records and information of the plaintiff. Recently, we’ve seen a flurry of requests for protective orders to protect the confidential information of plaintiffs contained within their medical records.  This initially may seem like a perfectly reasonable request — until we delve more deeply into why such protective orders are not only unnecessary but also make it difficult if not impossible for insurance carriers to fulfill their own legal obligations and conduct the ordinary business operations of an indemnity company.

With changes in the federal minimum wage overtime pay threshold on the horizon, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is also considering whether to update the Colorado Minimum Wage Order. If labor advocates have their way, the state would raise the overtime exemption threshold to 2.5 times the state’s minimum wage, making nearly 400,000 additional full-time employees in Colorado eligible for overtime pay.

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Zupkus and Angell congratulates Muliha Khan for obtaining a victory for her client in a case that went to trial in Casper, Wyoming. The lawsuit involved services provided in connection with transportation of oil rig equipment. This breach of contract case presented interesting legal issues related to the governing contract, as well as evidentiary issues under 408 (offers to compromise).  Ultimately, however, Z&A’s client prevailed with the jury of twelve coming back with a verdict in its favor. Congratulations Z&A!

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Attorney Muliha Khan of Zupkus & Angell, P.C. been included in the 2020 edition of The Best Lawyers in America.

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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