After Allstate agreed to continue the trial and submit the case to mediation, the Court issued an order requiring each party to attend; while counsel or some other representative was permitted, the Court required that he or she have full settlement authority. While the medical bills alone totaled more than the $75,000 in UM coverage available to the plaintiff under Allstate’s policy, no adjuster attended the mediation; the defense counsel who did attend claimed to have no authority to settle; and no settlement offer was ever made by Allstate, before the mediation was terminated, after three hours, by the mediator. Despite a general denial in its Complaint, Allstate stipulated to liability just prior to trial, which resulted in a verdict of $690,000 against Allstate. Plaintiff filed a motion for sanctions, seeking the $57,516 in costs and attorneys fees expended after the mediation on trial prep and trial.
Citing two previous sanctions orders by judges in Jefferson County against Allstate for violation of those Courts’ Mediation Orders, the Court noted that “Allstate’s conduct goes beyond just the facts and the conduct in this case. Allstate’s conduct affects all the courts of this State and contributes to backlogs of our civil justice system throughout Alabama.”
Recounting the facts in the instant case, the Court found that “Allstate obviously is in contempt of this Court’s Order and never intended to participate in the mediation in good faith…. This conduct violates and is in contempt of the Court’s Order, Mediation Rule 6, Section 6-6-20 of the Code of Alabama, and every tenet of fair play which undergirds our system of justice. Allstate’s conduct is the antithesis of Rule 1(c)’s admonition about securing the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action. Furthermore, Allstate has not controverted any of the evidence submitted to this Court which proves that Allstate’s conduct in this regard is repetitive…. This case marks at least the 6th such occurrence proven by the record in this case. The Court does not condone such repetitive, bad faith, and contemptuous conduct….
“Plaintiff Doyle Harbin asked the Court to award costs in the total amount of $5,141.36 and attorney fees of $52,375. However, the Court considers the requested relief inadequate to accomplish the dual purposes of addressing the burden placed on the Plaintiff and addressing the overarching effects of Allstate’s conduct upon the Courts of Alabama, civil litigants, witnesses, and Alabama citizens who must serve on juries every time Allstate behaves in this fashion.” Hence, the Court sanctioned Allstate in the amount of $620,141.36.
Harbin v. Stewart, No.47-CV-2017-901688.00 (Madison County Circuit Court of Alabama June 2, 2020).
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