One of the most powerful weapons an insurance company can use to defeat a bad faith claim is the “genuine dispute” doctrine. Under this doctrine, as long as there was a genuine dispute regarding coverage or the amount owed, the insurer cannot be held liable for having withheld the disputed policy benefits even if it later turned out they were owed. Chateau Chamberay Homeowners Ass’n v. Associated Int’l Ins. Co., 90 Cal.App.4th 335 (2001). Historically, this defense has been applied most commonly in published cases involving disputes over unsettled legal issues or where the insurer’s position was supported by a qualified expert. See e.g., Fraley v. Allstate Ins. Co., 81 Cal.App.4th 1282 (2000); Guebara v. Allstate Ins. Co., 237 F.3d 987 (9th Cir. 2001); Opsal v. USAA, 2 Cal.App.4th 1197 (1991).Continue Reading New Insurance Law: The Extension of California’s “Genuine Dispute” Doctrine to Disputes Over the Value of General Damages In UM/UIM Claims Handling
Zubillaga v. Allstate Indemnity Company, 12 Cal.App.5th 1017 (2017)
Carmen Zubillaga sustained a back injury from a car accident. After settling with the other driver’s insurer, Zubillaga made a claim for underinsured motorist benefits to her auto insurer, Allstate Indemnity Company. Zubillaga demanded the remaining $35,000 policy limit to settle her UIM claim. Allstate rejected Zubillaga’s demand, and instead offered $10,000. Zubillaga later claimed that she had radiating back pain requiring epidural injections. Allstate increased its offer to $12,084 and retained an orthopedic surgeon to examine Zubillaga. The surgeon examined Zubillaga and concluded that she did not have radiating back pain and did not need epidural injections. Relying on the surgeon’s opinion, Allstate stood firm on its settlement offer.
Continue Reading Genuine Dispute Doctrine Did Not Support Summary Judgment Where Expert Failed To Review All Medical Records