New York supreme court

New York State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Schak just might win the award for “Most Entertaining Decision in 2011”.  Of course, It doesn’t hurt that Judge Schak’s decision from King’s County in Taveras v. American Transit Insurance Company, 2011 NY Slip Op. 51831, does outstanding justice by holding an insurance company accountable for bad faith practices — something that happens all too often but is rarely brought to light.

This is how the decision begins:

In this insurance bad faith action the conduct of defendant AMERICAN TRANSIT INSURANCE COMPANY (AT) reminds the Court of the testimony given by Jack Nicholson’s character, Marine Colonel Nathan Jessup, in the 1991 film, A Few Good Men. When examined by a defense attorney, the Tom Cruise character, Navy Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, about whether Colonel Jessup ordered the hazing of a Marine, which went awry, at the Guantanamo Bay Naval [*2]Base, the lawyer and witness had the following colloquy:

Col. Jessup:You want answers?

Lt. Kaffee:I think I’m entitled to them.

Col. Jessup:You want answers?

Lt. Kaffee:I want the truth!

Col. Jessup:You can’t handle the truth!

Defendant AT, in the instant action, refuses not only to acknowledge the truth, but to handle the truth!

The gist of the case is that American Transit represented for many years to several people injured in a car wreck that it insured the driver who caused the crash.  At trial, the injured people said they were willing to settle the case within the amount of the negligent driver’s policy.  However, the company refused to settle despite overwhelming evidence in favor of the injured people.  At the end of trial, the jury returned a verdict far, far in excess of the negligent driver’s policy.

The result?  An award of $2,250,000 for the driver against his own insurance company for bad faith. 

This type of bad faith activity is not exclusive to New York City.  In Upstate New York, prosecution of our auto and injury cases also include fights with insurance companies as they attempt to engage in bad faith practices too frequently, keeping injured people from receiving due compensation and putting negligent parties at great financial risk.

Great job, Judge Schak.  It’s about time these companies were held accountable.

Thanks for reading!
Christina Bruner Sonsire, Esq.
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, New York 14902-1338
Office: 607.733.8866
Toll-Free: 800.ZIFFLAW (943.3529)