Colorado’s legislature enacted the state’s insurance bad faith statute in 2008, but landmark Colorado Supreme Court rulings on the subject have only existed since last year. Before the high court delivered a handful of decisions in 2018, it hadn’t been clear how claims under the statute should be classified, which in turn resulted in uncertainty about the statute of limitations and how to calculate the amount plaintiffs can recover.
One case that helped provide key clarification has earned a nomination for the Case of the Year Award from the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association for attorneys from Levin Sitcoff and Keating Wagner Polidori Free. The lawsuit, Casper v. Guarantee Trust Life Insurance Company, involved claims that the insurance company unreasonably denied the plantiff’s claim for insurance benefits on what was ultimately terminal cancer. Michael Casper, the plaintiff, died nine days after the jury delivered a verdict in his favor, which added additional obstacles in the case’s appeals. The insurance company argued Casper’s death should have voided the jury award under the survival statute.
The case began at the trial level in 2012 and got final word from the Colorado Supreme Court in spring 2018. Zach Warzel, a partner at Keating Wagner, led the case for Casper at trial, and brought in Levin Sitcoff attorneys Brad Levin and Nelson Waneka during the appeals. Levin did the arguments for the Court of Appeals, and Waneka argued the case before the Supreme Court.
Warzel said the insurance policy involved in the lawsuit had an element of fraud because the company’s agents sold it as a straightforward policy for benefits in case of a first diagnosis of certain serious illnesses, but in reality, the policy contained a lot of esoteric fine print that transformed it into an agreement a reasonable person couldn’t be expected to understand. Casper had purchased a “first diagnosis cancer benefit” insurance policy from Guarantee Trust Life Insurance that purported to provide benefits if he got a diagnosis of cancer, stroke or heart attack for the first time while he held the policy.