$510,000:Questionable Handling Of A Baseball Spectator’s Injury By Insurance Company

CASE DESCRIPTION:  Plaintiff injured while sitting in bleachers by flying bat.  Plaintiff brings suit for medical expenses and other damages.  The homeowner’s insurer of the person, who launched the bat, was sued for the policy limits.  After a break down between parties regarding settlement  negotiations, the Defendant later settled for five times the policy limits.

RESULT:  $510,000.00 total settlement

On February 1, 1984, Ida S. was sitting in the bleachers at Centennial Park in Santa Ana, California while her husband was warming up for a softball game.  Another game was finishing and the last batter was at the plate.  This individual, insured by Fire Insurance Exchange pursuant to a Homeowner’s Policy, swung the bat, struck out, and then either threw or lost control of an aluminum baseball bat which flew into the bleacher.  The end of the bat struck Plaintiff in the forehead between her eyes causing a facial laceration, fractured nasal bones, and diffuse cerebral atrophy.

During settlement negotiations (pre Moradi-Shalal), Defendants failed to accept settlement demands for the policy limits which would have resolved the case against the insured, despite the fact that Plaintiff contended that liability was reasonable clear and damages exceeded the $100,000.00 policy limits.  On October 25, 1984 Plaintiff’s counsel in the underlying action served Defendants with a C.C.P. § 998 offer in the amount of $99,950.00

Defendants responded on January 18, 1995 with a C.C.P § 998 Offer in the amount of $30,000.00  Although other settlement discussion took place, at no time during the handling of the underlying claim did the Defendant’s ever offer the policy limits of $100,000.00.  The Defendants contended they did not do so since Plaintiff’s attorney in the underlying action wrongfully withdrew the offer.

On March 27, 1987, Plaintiff obtained a jury verdict in the amount of $250,000.00 together with pre-judgment interest and costs.  Plaintiff agreed to accept $325,000.00 in full satisfaction of said judgment.

In August, 1987, Plaintiff filed a complaint for Breach of Statutory Duties under Insurance Code § 790.03(h).  In their defense, the insurance company maintained that at the time of Plaintiff’s various demands for settlement, they did not as yet have sufficient information to evaluate the claim and therefore had no duty to accept or propose settlement at those items.

Next Defendant argued that although the $100,000.00 was never offered by Defendants, they were relieved of the statutory obligation to effectuate a prompt fair and equitable settlement by offering their policy limits if they were of the opinion that Plaintiff’s counsel would no longer accept such offer.  The Defendant claims they were entitled to introduce into evidence statements made by settlement conference Judges’ opinions of the case upon which Defendants and their counsel may have relied.  (This was denied pursuant to Plaintiff’s Motion In Limine).

Alternately the Defendants claimed if they are guilty they are entitled to inform the jury and receive a credit against damages in a Bad Faith Action for the $225,000.00 sum paid in excess of the $100,000.00 policy limits in the underlying action.  (This was denied pursuant to Plaintiff’s Motion In Limine).

TYPE OF CASE:  Insurance Bad Faith (Royal Globe)

INJURIES:  Plaintiff suffered a facial laceration, fractured nasal bones, and diffuse cerebral atrophy.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT:  On 2/1/84 on a spectator bleacher at Centennial Park, Santa Ana, California.



Wylie A. Aitken
For Plaintiff – Ida S.

For Defendant – Fire Insurance Exchange & Farmers Insurance Exchange