Deep pocket files: Highway 101 crash

by Walter Olson on February 1, 2011

In 2007, on Highway 101 north of Ventura, Jeremy White plowed his pickup truck into a vehicle parked along the roadside, killing its driver and paralyzing a California highway patrolman who was standing alongside. White “pleaded guilty in September 2008 to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and selling and transporting marijuana. He was sentenced to 15 years.” While he had an insurance policy, its limit was a paltry $15,000. So which deep pockets will be left responsible for paying the nearly $50 million a jury has awarded in damages? The answer, apparently: 1) White’s insurance company, despite the policy limit, due to the magic of “insurance bad faith” law; 2) Bert’s Mega Mall in Covina, whose employees, according to the plaintiffs in the case, “didn’t properly strap down two dirt bikes in the back of White’s truck, which caused a distraction and contributed to the crash.”

After the trial ended Tuesday, the mall’s lawyer, Terrence Cranert, said they would appeal.

He said there was significant evidence the jury didn’t receive, including a statement from White’s passenger who told the CHP that he and White had stopped to smoke marijuana after leaving the mall. Cranert said they weren’t able to find White’s passenger for the trial, but felt the information should have been allowed.

The judge, however, disagreed.

White’s passenger also told the CHP that he and White went into the back of the truck and opened a tool box to get the marijuana, according to Cranert. “They would have to unstrap the motorcycles,” Cranert said.

[Ventura County Star reporting, liability and damages phases]

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PointOfLaw Forum
02.01.11 at 7:15 am

{ 6 comments }

1 John Rohan 02.01.11 at 7:37 am

I am really confused how any legitimate insurance policy could have a limit of only $15,000.

2 Harry Lime 02.01.11 at 9:39 am

I’m not a fan of insurance bad faith law, but why the heck did the insurance company not offer to settle up to the policy limits, which was a measly $15,000? It sounds like a no-brainer as White killed one person and seriously injured another. His insurance company should have just agreed to pay the policy limits immediately and then they could wash their hands of this mess. I’m hoping this gets appealed and we get an appellate decision on the bad faith issue; the article was not very clear on the progression of events. Also, you would think that the driver would have some type of underinsured motorist coverage.

3 Brat Magursky 02.01.11 at 11:20 am

Similar to a case in South georgia where a drunk plumber driving his ex wife’s car (when he wasnt on her policy) by himself collides head on with a couple just driving to a local restaurant. The wife wasn’t seriously injured but her husband was. Plumber’s ex had a $50,000.00 limit but his plumbing company had a policy with 1 million + coverage. A jury awarded 6 Million to husband. So the pltf atty knowing he can’t get that out of a drunk plumber has drunk plumber assign the judgment to his client & then sues insurance co for bad faith. Jury finds for insurance co but pltf appeals. Ga Supreme Court says verdict is reversed but case settles….http:\\askjims.chathamcounty.org (civil action # stcv0503367)

4 Ron Miller 02.01.11 at 12:51 pm

I think this story has been corrected since this was published (see bottom of article). But I still don’t think it makes any sense.

5 Patrick 02.01.11 at 4:29 pm

The Parras’ lawyer, John Gerard of Los Angeles, said had White’s insurance company written a $14,999 check to the Parras family months ago the couple’s lawsuit would have been settled. White’s insurance coverage was a limited liability policy of $15,000. Instead, they “played games.”

Cranert had argued that this was a good faith offer on the part of the insurance company.

If the insurance company only offered $14,999 to settle with the paralyzed , at any point, “bad faith” is putting it mildly on these facts.

“Insulting,” “repulsive,” and “in such horrifically poor taste that it would get a man’s teeth punched out if he did it in a bar rather than in a legal proceeding” all come to mind.

This was an easy case.

6 Patrick 02.01.11 at 4:30 pm

Ack, “the paralyzed state trooper,” that should have been.

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