Lewis Brisbois Secures Defense Verdict in Multimillion-Dollar Professional Negligence Case
Los Angeles, Calif. (October 29, 2019) - Los Angeles Partner Connie M. Fickel and Associate Timothy M. Schowe recently secured a defense verdict in a hard-fought, complex case involving a deceased defendant insurance agent/registered representative and the purchase of a 2006 variable universal life insurance policy.
The policy at issue was funded with an premium payment of $1.5 million dollars and contained a death benefit of $2.4 million, but following the Great Recession of 2008-2009, the policy lost a third of its value, devastating the policy and leading to its termination in 2016. The plaintiff brought suit under a number of claims, including breach of fiduciary duty and professional negligence through misrepresentation. The plaintiffs claimed that the agent told them that a 20 year extended guarantee applied, such that the policy could not lapse for at least 20 years. The plaintiff sought upwards of $6.5 million in damages utilizing at least 6 different damages models.
Through summary adjudication, we were able to reduce the claims down to a single cause of action for professional negligence. Through other pre-trial motions, we were able to eliminate one of the damages models, as well as other evidence.
At trial, through a motion at trial to exclude the plaintiffs' damages expert, we were able to cut the damages that the plaintiffs were allowed to present from upwards of $6.5 million, down to a maximum of $3.5 million. We also asserted several affirmative defenses, including a statute of limitations argument and comparative negligence, as we were able to prove that the plaintiff had not read any of the policy documents prior to or after signing them. The policy documents clearly disclosed that the policy was not guaranteed.
Our first affirmative defense of a superseding intervening cause ultimately won the day. Because the Great Recession was the single biggest contributing factor to the policy's termination, and it occurred after the alleged negligence, we argued that it superseded any claims that could be brought against the the defendant with respect to the policy. The jury agreed and found in favor of our client, without needing to address the other defenses.