Court Opinions for May 28

Colorado Supreme Court

American Family Mutual Insurance Company v. Barriga

After a fire at the apartment building Guillermo and Evelia Barriga own, they worked with their insurer, American Family Mutual Insurance, to hire a contractor for repairs.

Over the course of repairs, the contractor increased their estimate, raising it higher than American Family’s initial estimate.

American Family hired a third party for the appraisal process, which also resulted in an estimate higher than the American Family initial estimate. American Family paid the difference between what they had already paid and what the new estimate was.

The Barrigas were concerned about the appraisal process and sued for breach of contract, and unreasonable delay and denial of insurance benefits. The statute outlining “unreasonable delay and denial of insurance benefits” says a plaintiff can recover two times the covered benefit.

The trial court doubled the statutory verdict and reduced the award by the amount American Family eventually paid the Barrigas, which was the amount delayed.

The court affirmed the ruling of the appellate court, using the plain text of the statute involved. The court stated that the award from the verdict allows recovery of double the benefit that was delayed or denied without any reduction of money that was delayed but was eventually paid to the insured outside of the lawsuit.

Guarantee Trust Life Insurance Company v. Estate of Casper

The original plaintiff in this case, Michael Casper, passed away after a favorable jury verdict in a case for breach of contract, bad-faith breach of insurance contract, and unreasonable delay or denial of insurance benefits. His death came after the verdict was returned but before the trial court wrote and signed the judgment.

The original defendant, Guarantee Trust Life Insurance, moved to reduce the verdict with the argument that the survival statute barred parts of the damages they had to pay.

The court said that the survival statute does not limit the jury’s verdict in favor of Casper and the damages awarded to him. However, the trial court was out of line to enter a final judgment in October 2014 for a judgment made in July 2014. That is because the award of attorney fees and costs were not applied and are a component of the award.