The court considered whether, in a second trial for bad faith, the insured was required to again prove her damages, instead of relying on the jury's damage determination in the first trial where the tortfeasor's liability was established. Geico Gen. Ins. Co. v. Paton, 2014 Fla. Ct. App. LEXIS 14362 (Fla. Ct. App. Sept. 17, 2014).
The insured was injured in a car accident caused by the negligence of the underinsured driver. Geico paid the insured the $10,000 policy limit under her policy. The insured's mother also had uninsured/underinsured coverage with Geico, with policy limits of $100,000. When the insured demanded the $100,000 policy limits from her mother's policy, Geico offered $1,000. Later, Geico offered $5,000, but returned to the $1,000 offer after the insured refused to settle. When the insured reduced her demand to $22,500, Geico did not respond.
The insured sued and the case went to trial. The jury awarded $10,000 for past pain and suffering, and $350,000 for future pain and suffering. The verdict set the insured's total damages at $469,247. Geico did not file a motion for new trial nor did it appeal. Judgment was entered in favor of the insured, but was limited to the $100,000 UM policy limits.
The insured then amended her complaint to add a claim of bad faith under Florida statutes. Before the second trial on bad faith, the court granted the insured's motion in limine to exclude evidence of damages because the excess verdict returned in the UM trial established the damages she could recover under her bad faith claim.
The jury found for the insured. The court entered a final judgment in the amount of the excess verdict from the UM trial, $369,247, plus prejudgment interest.
Geico appealed. Under Florida law, damages in a first-party bad faith case included the total amount of the insured's damages that were caused by the original third-party tortfeasor, even if the damages were in excess of policy limits, without regard to whether the damages were caused by the insurance company. Forcing retrial of an insured's damages at the first-party bad faith trial, as Geico urged, was bad policy. By failing to move for a new trial after the first trial or to appeal, Geico did not preserve its right to challenge the total amount of the jury's damage award from the first trial.