Following a Washington automobile accident, a seriously injured person may have to deal with various insurance companies. Although dealing with an insurance company can be difficult, insurers are prohibited from acting in bad faith or engaging in unfair practices. If the insurer does act improperly, the claimant may be able to pursue an insurance bad faith claim. In a bad faith case, the insurer’s files may be important evidence.
In a recent case, the plaintiff sought documents and information created during litigation of the bad faith case. The plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident with a drunk driver. After settling for policy limits with the at-fault driver’s insurance, she filed an underinsured motorist claim. According to the appeals court’s opinion, the underinsured motorist policy limit was $50,000. The insurer offered $2,500. The plaintiff demanded $100,000. She ultimately filed suit against the insurance company for unfair claims settlement practices and bad faith. She alleged her damages “far exceeded” the policy limits.
In response to discovery requests, the plaintiff denied the damages payable by the insurer exceeded $75,000, which is the threshold amount in controversy for a case to be removed to federal court on diversity jurisdiction. She responded to a question regarding whether she sought trebling or any multiplier of damages affirmatively. She also stated she intended to seek punitive damages if there was a determination the insurer violated the Insurance Fair Conduct Act. She acknowledged the amount in controversy could exceed the $75,000 threshold, but offered to stipulate that the amount in controversy did not exceed that $75,000. The parties never reached agreement on the language for the stipulation. The insurer informed the plaintiff it would seek removal if the plaintiff did not sign the stipulation.