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Bentley & More LLP Files Bad Faith Lawsuit to Collect $67M Judgment.

SAN DIEGO, June 9, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Bentley & More LLP, in conjunction with Berman & Riedel, LLP, filed an insurance bad faith lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court, alleging that Preferred Contractors Insurance Company RRG refused to settle claims against PCIC’s insured, Online Builders, abandoned its insured just before trial, and failed to attend a scheduled arbitration, which resulted in a judgment in excess of $67 million.

The initial lawsuit, Hector Mede, et al. v. WRKB Builders Inc. d/b/a Online Builders, was filed in April of 2015 and stated that in September of 2014, Hector Mede suffered a catastrophic personal injury while working at a construction site in Escondido, CA. Online Builders oversaw the construction site, and was responsible for worksite safety. Part of the project involved removing HVAC equipment on a rooftop, which left holes that Online Builders promised to safeguard. But those holes remained uncovered weeks later, and when Mr. Mede went onto the rooftop to retrieve some personal items he fell through an uncovered, unmarked and dangerous hole. As a result of his fall, Mr. Mede suffered the following:

  • Traumatic brain injury;

  • Ischemic brain injury (strokes) as a secondary consequence of his carotid artery dissection;

  • Optic nerve injuries to both eyes;

  • Multiple other severe organ and orthopedic injuries; and

  • A great number of additional injuries, such as spastic and ataxic quadriplegia, spastic dysarthria, blindness, chronic pain, neurogenic bowel/bladder, and chronic sleep and emotional difficulties.

“Pursuant to California law, PCIC had an obligation to protect Online Builders, and settle claims against its insured when possible,” said attorney Gregory L. Bentley of Bentley & More LLP. “Despite numerous opportunities to do so, they abandoned their insured, leaving Online Builders with a massive judgment and depriving Mr. Mede of the justice he so deserves.”

When the initial lawsuit was filed, Online Builders was insured through a Contractor Platinum Program Commercial General Liability Policy issued by Preferred Contractors Insurance Company Risk Retention Group, LLC. The plaintiffs allege that Mr. Mede’s injuries fall within the basic coverage provisions of the PCIC policy, and in the initial lawsuit, Mr. Mede’s counsel offered to settle for the policy limits multiple times. These offers were open for more than seven months and expired on March 2, 2016. By that date, discovery had been completed, witnesses had been deposed and PCIC had access to Mr. Mede’s extensive medical records, which clearly showed he had more than $1.5 million in medical expenses already paid, and had lost earnings and future medical costs in excess of $13 million as well as other damages to consider. Despite the facts it had on hand, PCIC allowed the demand to lapse and then it pulled the defense it had been providing, all but abandoning Online Builders a mere two months before trial.

Following PCIC’s conduct, the plaintiffs and Online Builders engaged in a binding arbitration before a referee appointed by the Superior Court to determine all issues under California Code of Civil Procedure § 638. PCIC was repeatedly invited to attend the arbitration, defend its insured, and fulfill its obligations under the Policy, but it chose instead to ignore those invitations, and leave Online Builders to twist in the wind. The subsequent judgment against Online builders was staggering. The amount of the judgment after the offset was $59,550,105.00; prejudgment interest was also awarded in the amount of $8,255,440.60.  Interest on the judgment amount continues to accrue at 10% per year. Online Builders was 100% at fault, and the award provides a clear inference as to the value of the plaintiff’s case at the time the policy limit demand was rejected by PCIC. 

“PCIC had a clear duty to represent its insured and chose not to do so,” said William M. Berman of Berman & Riedel, LLP. “It’s egregious for an insurance company as sophisticated as this to pretend it can walk away from its contractual obligations in an obvious attempt to put money over its customers.”

SIS Wholesale Insurance Services is the parent company of PCIC and is located in Carlsbad, CA. SIS is licensed and distributes in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The Policy was obtained through insurance broker Jessie W. Nettles Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a Allstar Premier Insurance Services.

The case name is Hector Mede, et al. v Preferred Contractors Insurance Company Risk Retention Group LLC, et al., San Diego Superior Court, Case No. 37-2017-00020716-CU-IC-NC.