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Clayton & Diemer Defeats a $15 Million Punitive Damage Verdict in Alaska

January 25, 2019

Clayton & Diemer Defeats a $15 Million Punitive Damage Verdict in Alaska

The Alaska Supreme Court gave Allstate Insurance Company and its employed claims adjuster Kathy Berry victory with its opinion rendered January 25, 2019, ending thirteen years of litigation over whether Ms. Berry and her employer had “negligently adjusted” a personal injury claim arising from a September 2002 auto accident in rural Alaska.  Allstate’s insured argued that Allstate and Berry had not acted quickly enough to investigate the claims asserted by the accident victims and had not timely offered policy limits to avoid an excess exposure against the insured.    Following a confession of judgment and an assignment of rights, the insured and the accident victims sought damages against Allstate and Ms. Berry.

 Litigation proceeded in both Federal and State Courts.  In June 2008 a federal jury returned a verdict that “Allstate acted reasonably by offering policy limits on May 30, 2003.”  Following appeal and entry of Final Judgment in Federal Court, the accident victims continued to pursue damages in State court for negligent adjusting, eventually receiving a verdict that Allstate and Berry were negligent and that Allstate’s conduct warranted a punitive damage award of $15 million. The Supreme Court ultimately applied the doctrine of issue preclusion, found that the verdict and judgment entered in Federal court precluded the claims later presented in State court and vacated the resulting Judgment for damages against Allstate and Ms. Berry.

 The LNA member firm of Clayton & Diemer, LLC represented Ms. Berry throughout the dispute and presented the briefing on issue preclusion to the Alaska Supreme Court. 

 



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