Allstate to Pay $30M After Mo. Court OKs Auto Wreck Award

Order Reprints

September 4, 2018—The same day a Missouri appellate panel affirmed a $37.5 million award in a suit accusing a motorist of negligently causing a highway accident resulting in a man’s paraplegia, Allstate Insurance Co. agreed to pay a $30.5 million settlement to resolve the issue, the injured man’s attorney said last week, reported Law360.

Allstate agreed to the deal to end a potential post-trial claim that the insurance giant made a bad-faith refusal to settle an auto accident suit accusing its policyholder Philip Stratman of causing a big rig to rear-end Steven Holdeman’s vehicle, which resulted in the latter’s severe and permanent injuries, Holdeman’s attorney Tim Dollar of Dollar Burns & Becker LC told Law360.

“Allstate was given an opportunity to pay $100,000 pretrial with a specified release only for Mr. Stratman,” said Dollar. “Their response was to offer payment for a general release of all claims, which under Missouri law is considered a counter-offer that was rejected and the case proceeded to trial.”

A spokeswoman for Allstate did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday, according to the report.

A Jackson County Circuit Court jury found Stratman 99 percent to blame for the accident, while Holdeman was found to be 1 percent at fault, and awarded $30 million to Holdeman and $7.5 million to his wife for loss of consortium.

The suit alleges that Stratman had been driving his car in neutral in order to save gas and prevent wear and tear on the vehicle, which caused the car to stall in the middle of the highway. Moments after Holdeman’s car came to a stop behind Stratman’s stalled vehicle, a commercial driver for trucking company C&G Express failed to brake in time and struck Holdeman’s car at a rate of about 50 miles per hour, according to court papers.

A three-judge Court of Appeals panel on Tuesday upheld the jury verdict, saying certain evidentiary decisions made by the trial judge were not unfair.

On appeal, Stratman said the trial judge should’ve allowed evidence related to claims made against the truck driver and C&G that were later settled, which Stratman insists would’ve allowed him to prove that Holdeman’s accident reconstruction expert, Fred Semke, was not a credible witness.

According to Law 360, Noting that evidence of settlement agreements are generally not admissible under Missouri law, the panel said Stratman failed to show how the expert’s knowledge of the deal resulted in biased testimony and his argument is otherwise “speculative and unfounded.”

“Stratman fails to explain how Semke’s knowledge of the settlement agreements impacted his testimony in this case, and how putting that information in front of a jury would have truly served to impeach Semke’s fault conclusions,” the panel wrote in a 21-page opinion. “Stratman fails to prove the logical or legal relevance of the settlement agreements to Semke’s testimony.”

Dollar noted that claims against C&G, the driver and a related party were settled for $4 million, a sum which reduced the $37.5 million award in post-trial proceedings.

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