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Eighth Circuit Affirms Award to Johnson Abdallah Client against Insurance Company

May 15, 14

Johnson, Abdallah, Bollweg & Parsons, LLP is pleased to announce that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has affirmed a $65,000 supplemental award to one of its injured clients for vexatious and unreasonable conduct in refusing to pay the full amount of the client’s underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance benefits.

Cindy Tripp was a loyal customer of Western National Mutual Insurance Company and paid her premiums for many years. When she was injured in a car accident, the other driver (who was at fault) did not have enough insurance coverage to compensate Tripp for all of her damages. That possibility was why Tripp had paid a premium each month under her own insurance policy for UIM coverage.

When she submitted her claim for the remaining damages to her own insurance company, however, the company refused to pay. As a result, Tripp was forced to file an action against her own insurer to obtain her contractual UIM benefits. Johnson Abdallah represented her at trial. After Tripp won a jury verdict of $150,000 in contract damages at trial, the federal district court also awarded her an additional $65,000 based on the insurer’s unfair and unreasonable conduct toward her claim.

The insurance company appealed the additional award, but in a unanimous decision, the Eighth Circuit affirmed, explaining:

The district court found Western’s own files supported Tripp’s claim that the refusal to pay was without reasonable cause. Western’s claims adjuster valued Tripp's claim “as having a range of $120,000–150,000.” The district court therefore found Western's $10,000 offer had no reasonable basis because Western itself valued the UIM claim much higher.

. . . As the district court stated, “The Tripps did not purchase underinsured motorist coverage from Western National so that Western National could nickel and dime them and try to get its own insured to accept half of what it calculated the Tripps’ losses to be.”

Steve Johnson and Ron Parsons of Johnson, Abdallah, Bollweg & Parsons, LLP represented the Tripps both at trial and on appeal.

Tripp v. Western National Mutual Insurance Co., United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, No. 10-3759

It is great to work with the attorneys at Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah. They always provide excellent advice and service that is second to none.

Mike Miller | former NBA player

The lawyers at Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah are consistently ranked as the top business lawyers in the state. Our business can always count on them to aggressively fight for our rights and provide straight-forward advice on complex issues.

Mark McNeary | Primrose Retirement Communities, LLC

Lawyers from Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah regularly participate in legal education by judging intramural student skills competitions; helping prepare our nationally competitive litigation skills teams; serving or leading the South Dakota State Bar's Law School Committee; and, from time to time , providing guest lecturers. The Law School is grateful for the generous participation of lawyers like those from Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah.

Tom Geu | former Dean, USD School of Law