CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has ruled that the circuit court erred in its decision to not credit State Farm for an advance payment.
In 2009, Hasil Pak was injured in a car wreck caused by an unknown, hit-and-run driver and she filed an uninsured motorists suit against the unknown driver, John Doe, seeking damages for her injuries Her uninsured motorists’ insurance carrier was State Farm, who defended the lawsuit.
Before trial, State Farm advanced Pak $30,628.15 on her damages and, after a jury returned a verdict for Pak, Monongalia Circuit Court entered a judgment order on Dec. 4, 2014, refusing State Farm any credit against the final judgment for the advance payment.
The majority opinion was authored by Chief Justice Menis Ketchum. Justice Robin Jean Davis concurred in part and dissented in part.
State Farm then appealed the circuit court’s order, asserting that the court erred in refusing to credit the advance payment against the final judgment and State Farm also alleges that the circuit court erred in calculating prejudgment interest.
“Upon review, we agree that the circuit court erred when it refused to credit State Farm’s advance payment against the final judgment,” the Jan. 26 opinion states. “The circuit court also erred in calculating prejudgment interest. We reverse the circuit court’s December 4, 2014, judgment order and remand this case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
In the case, the jury returned a verdict of $101,000 exclusive of prejudgment interest, which included $25,000 for medical expenses; $30,000 for loss of earning capacity; $10,000 for loss of household services; $6,000 for pain, suffering, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life; and $30,000 for pain, suffering, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life to be incurred in the future.
The circuit court reduced the $101,000 verdict to $70,700 because the jury found that Pak was 30 percent at fault in the car wreck.
Pak submitted a proposed final order that did not credit State Farm for its payment of $25,000 on its medical payments coverage or its $30,628.15 advance payment on its uninsured motorists’ coverage. State Farm objected to the proposed order on two grounds.
On May 14, 2014, the circuit court entered an order ruling on State Farm’s objections and in its order, the circuit court found that Pak’s judgment should be reduced by State Farm’s $25,000 payments on its medical payments coverage for Pak’s medical bills and the circuit court refused to credit State Farm for its $30,628.15 advance payment and incorrectly calculated prejudgment interest.
The circuit court denied State Farm’s motion and on Oct. 3, 2014, it entered a judgment order which failed to credit State Farm for the earlier payments.
State Farm then filed a second motion to alter or amend and on Dec. 4, 2014, the circuit court entered an amended judgment, crediting State Farm for the $25,000 payment, but ruling that the $30,628.15 advance was likely a gift and gave no credit for it.
The circuit court erred when it failed to deduct State Farm’s $30,628.15 advance payment against the final judgment and also erred by awarding pre-judgment interest on State Farm’s advance payment and on Pak’s award for loss of household services.
“Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s December 4, 2014, judgment order and remand this case for proceedings consistent with this opinion,” the opinion states.
Doe is represented by Tiffany R. Durst and Nathaniel D. Griffith of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe PLLC. Pak is represented by John R. Angotti and David J. Straface of Angotti & Straface.
W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 15-0013