Proposed settlement reached in Roane insurance case

By Justin Anderson | Apr 14, 2009

SPENCER –- Lawyers in a lawsuit against Nationwide Insurance are seeking class members to share in a proposed $75 million settlement with the company.

The settlement is pending in Roane Circuit Court, and class members are being instructed to have their claims filed by Aug. 24.

The lawyers in the case, meanwhile, are asking for $25 million in fees from the settlement. A hearing on that motion will be held at the Roane courthouse at 1 p.m. June 25.

West Virginia lawyers Scott Segal, Victor Woods, Samuel Hrko, Ralph Troisi and Todd Wiseman represent the plaintiffs, as do Philadelphia lawyers Peter R. Kahana and Steven L. Bloch, as does William F. Merlin Jr. of Tampa, Fla.

The proposed settlement was reached Feb. 9 and was preliminarily approved by Roane Circuit Judge David W. Nibert on Feb. 10.

The settlement is the result of a lawsuit originally filed by Nationwide, according to court documents.

Plaintiffs George O'Dell and his wife Stacy McKown O'Dell were involved in a car accident in 2000. George racked up $25,000 in medical bills and Stacy had $6,000 in medical bills.

The O'Dells had an insurance policy through Nationwide and advised the company that their claims were going to exceed their liability coverage limits. They asked Nationwide for verification that the company had validly offered George the opportunity to purchase underinsured motorist coverage.

Nationwide said it sent mass mailings to the O'Dells and other policyholders in West Virginia in 1993 and 1999 that explained uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage and offered the same. The company stated that O'Dell declined both these offers.

Nationwide then filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against the O'Dells, who, in turn, filed a counterclaim saying that the 1993 and 1999 mass mailings were not "commercially reasonable" offers and were not in compliance with state law.

Potential class members include West Virginia Nationwide policyholders who were involved in a car accident between April 11, 1993 through Jan. 31, 2007 who were injured or suffered property damage because of an uninsured or underinsured motorist and were either denied coverage for the accident or provided with such coverage with liability limits less than the value of the bodily injury or property damage.

A Web site has been set up for potential class members to visit: Potential class members can also call 877-562-7599 or write to: Claims Administrator, P.O. Box 850, Hurricane, WV 25526.

Class members have to exclude themselves from or object to or comment on the settlement by May 26.

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