State Farm goes to trial over denying policy benefits in auto collision

David Yates Mar. 26, 2008, 8:46am

In 2003, Carolyn Henderson was injured in an automobile collision when an "underinsured motorist" swerved into her lane. After the incident, Henderson petitioned her insurance company, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance, for her policy benefits but claims she was unjustly turned down.

Henderson filed suit against State Farm in 2006, and the case has made its way to trial in Jefferson County District Court. The trial of Henderson vs. State Farm began Wednesday, March 25 in Judge Milton Shuffield's 136th District Court.

Henderson filed suit against State Farm on March 15, 2006, after State Farm "refused to pay all the benefits due to … her under the insurance policy."

Henderson's suit says "underinsured motorist" Sonya Annette Sims negligently caused the automobile collision on June 30, 2003, when Sims failed to keep a proper lookout and came into Henderson's lane. "This collision … was proximately caused by the negligence of Sims," the plaintiff claimed.

In its original answer, State Farm said Henderson's allegations concerning Sims negligence were "improper blanket allegations."

"Based on this improper blanket allegation, State Farm cannot determine what conduct Plaintiff is complaining of by the alleged tortfeasor, Sonya Annette Sims," the answer stated. "Nowhere in Plaintiff's Original Petition does Plaintiff state any supporting facts for the above stated blanket allegation."

During the trial, plaintiff's attorney James Payne will attempt to persuade jurors that Henderson's State Farm policy provided payment for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, personal injury protection, bodily injury liability, property damage liability, and towing and labor costs.

"Despite written and oral requests for payment, the Defendant has failed and refused and still fails and refuses to pay all the benefits due and owing to Plaintiff under the insurance policy," the suit said.

"[T]he failure and refusal of the Defendant to make all payments due and owing to Plaintiff … is a result of an intentional and willful refusal in good faith to settle the above referenced claim, and for that reason, Plaintiff is entitled to recover exemplary damages."

Henderson will also ask jurors to award her damages for past and future mental anguish, impairment, disfigurement, medical expenses and lost wages, plus all court costs including attorney's feed.

Payne is an attorney for the Provost Umphrey law firm.

State Farm is represented by attorney Clint Lewis of Lewis & Associates.

Case No. D177-014

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