Bad Faith: Judge Orders Insurer To Pay $900,000 For Denying $15,000 Stolen Car Claim
Calling its employees’ conduct “flagrant, deceitful and outrageous,” a Lehigh County judge on Thursday levied $900,000 in punitive damages against an insurance company that denied an Allentown couple’s stolen car claim in 2016.
In a scathing opinion, Judge Melissa T. Pavlack said defendant Mercury Insurance Company of Florida engaged in “trickery” in its fight to avoid paying plaintiffs David and Heidi Unterberg about $15,000 in the claim, and attempted to paint the couple as “uncooperative” with its investigation.
“This is what happens when insurance companies don’t do what they’re obligated to,” said the Unterbergs’ attorney, Steven A. Bergstein. “The message is very clear, that insurance companies can’t play games with their policy holders.”
In addition to the punitive award, Pavlack also ordered Mercury to pay $186,879 in attorneys fees, $3,595 court costs and $7,427 interest.
The award capped a five-year legal battle that began when the Unterbergs reported their 2009 Buick Enclave stolen from outside their North 21st Street home in November 2015.