INSURANCE COMPANY REFUSED TO PAY $30,000 POLICY
$4.5 MILLION SETTLEMENT DURING TRIAL
On April 27th, 2006, George Liu, a 24-year-old San Jose State senior, was operating a powerful Kawasaki ZX6 racing motorcycle in the fast lane on Calvert Drive off Stevens Creek in San Jose heading towards the Lawrence Expressway.
Downstream a Honda CRX in the slow lane made an illegal u-turn across the fast lane and forced a van ahead of George’s motorcycle to make an emergency stop.The van stopped in time and never hit the CRX. When George jammed on his brakes, his motorcycle reared upward onto its front wheel and pitched him over the handlebars into the van as he stopped.
The motorcycle caused no damage to the van.Dents to the rear of the van were caused by George’s back, knee and elbow.When he hit the pavement George was a paraplegic with a burst fracture of L-1 as a result of severe flexing when he hit the van.
The 18 year-old defendant driver of the CRX admitted to the SJPD he had initiated a u-turn from the slow lane.In deposition, the defendant, who emigrated from Hong Kong at age 16, claimed he was misunderstood because his English was poor.He now claimed to have made a u-turn from the fast lane ahead of the van.His passenger reported the defendant moved from the slow lane into the fast lane, completed a u-turn and had reversed direction when the motorcycle hit the van.
The driver of the van testified the motorcycle was 50 to 100 feet behind her at 30 mph, the CRX came from her right and she came to a full stop missing the CRX by 1-2 feet as it “cut her off.”She did not know how long she had been stopped and guessed it was 1 second, 2-3 seconds or 5 seconds before she was hit from behind.
Plaintiff claimed the illegal u-turn placed him in imminent peril.The defendant claimed the motorcyclist was 100% at fault because he did not “get on his brakes fast enough” and if the van was able to stop, the motorcycle, with superior brakes, also should have been able to stop safely instead of running into a stopped van.Plaintiff countered with an EdSmac computer simulation showing that the crash developed over four seconds during half of which the motorcyclist’s view of the illegal left-turn by the CRX was blocked by the van as it followed the curve of the street to the left.
On July 5, 2006, the insurance carrier, knowing that George would be in a wheel chair for life, rejected, in writing, a policy limits demand because George was 80% at fault.That rejection of the offer to settle for policy limits was a violation of the requirements of good faith and fair dealing by exposing an insured to a judgment in excess of his or her policy and opening the door against the insurance company for punitive damages for insurance fraud.
The complaint was filed on July 20, 2006 in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
In June 2007, the carrier told the mediator in our case that it would never pay seven figures, even though George had $300,000 in medical bills, $6 million in future medical expenses and the adjuster’s letter refusing to pay the policy was idiocy.Based on my experience, I “knew” that in time a top executive would listen.
The week before trial the carrier offered $1 million.We finally had someone’s attention at the home office for an offer that exceeded the policy by $970,000.The real engagement had begun.
On July 23, 2007 trial began before the Hon. Gregory Ward.During a recess that morning our mediator called and reported the offer now was $2 million.I told him that $2 million wasn’t justice and I wasn’t afraid to try our case against $2 million.
So, we went back into court.Pre-trial motions were argued, a jury selected and impaneled, opening statements were made and three eyewitnesses were called to testify.
Wednesday afternoon July 25th we agreed to settle for $4.5 million, a fair and just result for a most deserving young man.
The release, signed Thursday July 26th, provides that “plaintiff, his parents and his counsel agree not to mention” the name of the defendant, his counsel, insurance company . . . ”including by implication, innuendo, inference, suggestion and/or by any slogan or reference that might identify” the insurance company.
Thank you to my great law firm team for their hard work especially Jason Baker, Ann Mostek and Corene Abrego.
Thank you to George Liu for his courage in staying the course.Together we made it happen.
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