Mansell, Engel & Cole

Judge employs a single word re insurer's conduct: audacious

No ambiguity attaches to a judge's ruling in a recent legal dispute involving mega insurer State Farm.

In fact, venom fairly leaps from the pen of Pennsylvania judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson in her ruling denying that company's motion to stop pending litigation against it.

The ire -- on display via the judge's reference to State Farm's "audacious" conduct tied to "illusory coverage" that bilked a good-faith policyholder for 18 years -- clearly presages the difficult time that the insurance behemoth might reasonably expect to encounter when a jury focuses attention on the things that Massiah-Jackson has seen and weighed in on. Following is a nutshell narrative of the litigation-linked tale and some material details.

A man bought so-called "stacked coverage" for two vehicles years ago. When one was stolen, he dutifully notified State Farm, which deleted that vehicle from coverage.

And then, allegedly, the insurer continued to charge that policyholder for the deleted-but-not-really-deleted stacked coverage for an additional 15 years. And, while doing so, it deprived the payer of material information critical to his billing and payment amount.

Namely, notes one media report on the matter, it "concealed the stacking and prevented him knowing about the additional coverage he was paying for."

Massiah-Jackson could not abide that, rejecting the insurer's contention that the policyholder's claim must be dropped for failure to state a valid claim.

Indeed, noted the judge, there were several huge questions of fact to be properly adjudged by a courtroom jury, including its assessment of State Farm's "stacking of coverage when it had actual knowledge such contracts were clearly erroneous."

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