ST. CLAIRSVILLE, OHIO – A Belmont County, Ohio, jury returned a $10 million verdict as a result of Personal Service Insurance Company's wrongful denial of insurance coverage benefits stemming from an April 2003 crash that claimed the life of one man and seriously injured two others.
The jury found that PSIC's denial of coverage and refusal to provide an attorney to Donald and Kathy Cox was done in bad faith and awarded $8 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.
"This jury heard and saw evidence of this large insurance company's total disregard for the rights of these Belmont County residents," said Jamie Bordas, a Wheeling attorney who tried the case. "It sent a message to insurance companies everywhere that when they promise to provide coverage and protect people who use their hard-earned paychecks to buy insurance, the insurance company had better make good on that promise when it is their turn to protect those people."
The case stems from an April 2003 crash that resulted in the death of Brian Bigler and serious injuries to his father, Howard Bigler. Donald Cox had hit the Biglers after going left of center while trying to adjust his sun visor on his car.
Donald Cox and his wife had automobile insurance coverage with PSIC. However, after being notified of the crash by its agent, PSIC refunded the Coxes' premiums four days after the wreck, claiming that the company had effectively cancelled the policy over a month earlier.
Belmont County Common Pleas Court Judge Jennifer Sargus presided over the trial, which spanned two weeks, and had previously held that under Ohio law, PSIC had not effectively cancelled the policy before the collision and that the policy was in full force and effect on the day of the accident.
Attorney Harry White of the law firm Banker & White in St. Clairsville represented the interests of the Bigler family at the trial. Tom Mulvey and Lisa Haase of the Columbus, Ohio law firm of Curry, Roby, and Mulvey Co., LLC, represented PSIC which had previously been headquartered in Columbus.