Birmingham office: 205.980.5888
Huntsville office: 256.532.1957

Trey Hawthorne and Travis Keith obtained a Defense Verdict for their client, ACCC Insurance Company

Trey Hawthorne and Travis Keith obtained a Defense Verdict for their client, ACCC Insurance Company. The plaintiffs brought claims against for (1) bad faith, (2) conversion, (3) misrepresentation, and (4) breach of contract. They alleged that after their vehicle was damaged by an ACCC insured, ACCC failed to investigate the claim in good faith, improperly deemed their vehicle to be a “total loss” (rather than repairable), and then converted the vehicle by having it moved from a body shop, where it was accruing storage charges, to a secured lot where it would no longer accrue those storage costs. ACCC denied the allegations and specifically contended that bad faith was not recognized in this third-party context, that the vehicle had been properly determined to be a total loss under Alabama law, and that they had obtained written authority from the plaintiff to have the vehicle moved to the secured, storage-free lot. The Defense moved for summary judgment on behalf of ACCC, and the motion was granted on all claims other than the conversion claim. That conversion claim was tried. ACCC’s last offer prior to trial was $7,500.00, and the plaintiffs’ last demand was $75,000.00. During trial, plaintiffs’ counsel spent considerable time focusing on ACCC’s initial handling of the claim and determination that the claim was a total loss. It was a clear attempt to establish “bad faith” on ACCC’s part and obtain an inflated verdict, despite the fact that ACCC’s initial handling of the claim was not really material to the claim of conversion. On ACCC’s behalf, the Defense began by quickly discrediting the plaintiffs’ arguments with respect to ACCC’s initial handling of the claim and determination of total loss and then pushing the jury to focus on the facts that were truly pertinent to the claim of conversion. The Defense established that after ACCC had requested that the vehicle be released, so that it could be moved to the secured lot, the plaintiff confirmed in writing that he would have the vehicle released. The Defense further established that despite his subsequent claims that ACCC had moved the vehicle without authorization, neither he, his wife, nor his attorneys ever asked that ACCC return the vehicle to them while their property damage claim was still pending. At the close of the plaintiffs’ case-in-chief, ACCC moved for dismissal of the plaintiff’s punitive damages claim, and that claim was dismissed. During closing, plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury to return a verdict for the plaintiffs and to award between $1,000.00 and $4,000.00 for the value of the vehicle, as well as $100,000.00 for mental anguish stemming from the conversion. The Defense argued that the only verdict that was fair, reasonable, and based upon the evidence was a defense verdict. The jury deliberated for just over three and half hours before returning a verdict for the defendant, ACCC Insurance Company.

Filed under: Newsroom