Verdict for Hartford Casualty Insurance Company

In November and December of last year, we defended our client, Hartford Casualty Insurance Company, against claims of breach of contract and insurance bad faith in a five-week jury trial in the Superior Court of the State of California for the City and County of San Francisco. The thrust of the complaint was that, by Hartford’s wrongfully declining to defend its insureds, J.R. Marketing, LLC (a small business engaged in the sale of computer locks) and J.R.’s owners and employees, it had caused them to lose their business, to suffer serious psychological harm, and to incur massive legal fees to recover the contract benefits – all this notwithstanding the fact that Hartford had been paying, pursuant to court order, all legal bills within thirty days of their being rendered without question or deduction. Despite the fact that plaintiffs had asked the jury for $30 million and a finding that would have allowed them to ask for punitive damages as well, the jury awarded them only $262,000 on its breach of contract claim. The jury returned a verdict for Hartford on all plaintiffs’ claims of insurance bad faith.

In February and March, we tried to the court Hartford’s counterclaims for the reimbursement of the unnecessary and unreasonable legal fees and disbursements that Hartford had had to pay. Squire Sanders, plaintiffs’ lead counsel, had run up fees and disbursements in excess of $13 million. Hartford’s case was subject to a presumption that the legal fees and disbursements were reasonable and necessary. Nevertheless, the court held that Hartford was entitled to reimbursement of approximately $5.2 million, more than half the amount that it had sought. (Hartford’s expert had testified that a reasonable fee could have run as high as $3.3 million.)

Ira Greenberg (New York) was lead trial counsel in both phases of the trial. Bonnie Miller (New York) provided support before (compiling the necessary exhibits and deposition transcripts and the like) and after (in post-trial briefing) the trial.