Pennsylvania Record

Friday, November 15, 2019

Appeals court affirms 'torturous' bad faith case in favor of insurer


By Scott Holland | Oct 31, 2019


HARRISBURG — A state appeals court has upheld a lower court’s ruling in favor of American General Life Insurance in a bad faith lawsuit.

The Armstrong County Court of Common Pleas ruled Timothy Mohney failed to prove his claims against American General, which he sued as a successor to U.S. Life Credit Insurance. He appealed to the Superior Court. Judge Jack Panella wrote the opinion issued Oct. 10. Judges Victor Stabile and Maria McLaughlin concurred.

“The torturous course of the proceedings before the trial court were protracted and problematical,” Panella wrote, saying the Superior Court twice remanded to the trial court and that the only remaining issue was Mohney’s claim that U.S. Life denied a total disability benefits claim.

The panel said Judge William Ober, now retired, presided over Mohney’s second bench trial in September 2017. Ober entered a verdict finding U.S. Life didn’t knowingly or recklessly disregard a lack of a reasonable basis for its denial of the benefits. 

Mohney’s post-trial motions were assigned to Judge Chase McClister, who denied those motions in May 2018, then filed a memorandum explaining the reasons for supporting Ober’s verdict.

On appeal, Mohney said it was wrong to allow the insurer to use an expert who was introduced just before the trial started. He also:

-Questioned the insurer’s reliance on certain medical opinions;

-Said the court was wrong to pass off misrepresentations during claims handling as complying with industry standards;

-Argued an insurance adjuster’s testimony was vague and superficial;

-Said his post-denial conduct should not have been admitted as evidence; and 

-Said the insurer wasn’t compelled to fully respond to requested discovery concerning what information was reviewed before denying his claim.

“After a thorough and meticulous examination of the record, and a careful review of the briefs, we find that the adjudication and verdict of Dec. 20, 2017, the order of May 4, 2018, and the memorandum opinion of July 20, 2018, adequately address all of the issues raised by the appellant, and are more than sufficiently supported in the record,” Panella wrote. “Therefore, we affirm on the basis of the aforesaid decisions by the trial court.”

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