Trey Hawthorne and Travis Keith obtained a Defense Verdict for their client, ACCC Insurance Company. The plaintiffs brought claims against ACCC Insurance Company 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 to have the vehicle moved to the secured, storage-free lot. Defense counsel moved for summary judgment on behalf of ACCC, and their motion was granted on all claims other than the conversion claim, so that claim was tried.
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, defense counsel quickly discredited the plaintiffs’ arguments with respect to ACCC’s initial handling of the claim and determination of total loss and then pushed the jury to focus on the facts that were truly pertinent to the claim of conversion. Defense counsel 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. Defense counsel further established that despite plaintiff’s 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 plaintiffs’ punitive damages claim. That motion was granted, and the punitive damages 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. Defense counsel 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.