SOURCE: United Automobile Insurance Company

October 19, 2009 16:29 ET

United Auto Files Motion for New Trial in Questionable Bad Faith Lawsuit Resulting From 2001 Auto Accident in Which a Local Judge Was Killed

Company Owner Claims It Was a "Bad Faith Claim Set-Up" From the Beginning

MIAMI, FL--(Marketwire - October 19, 2009) - Within a day of learning about a claim resulting from an auto accident in which Judge Steven D. Levine and a passenger were killed by a driver insured by United Automobile Insurance Company (United Auto), the company immediately tendered the limits of its policy to the estates of Judge Levine (Levine Estate) and Lourdes Maldonado, and later exceeded its policy limits by paying more than what it was required to pay to protect its insured, Jose Hernandez.

In February of 2002, United Auto sent a check in the amount of $10,000 accompanied by a release form to Bob Brown, the Levine Estate's attorney. Three months later, when United Auto received its uncashed check back without any explanation, one of its litigation executives called Brown's attorney's office to find out why they had not cashed the check or contacted United Auto. A legal assistant in Brown's office advised that United Auto's payment was "not enough" and the law firm was planning "to do other things." When asked what that meant, she declined to explain herself and ended the call with, "You will find out."

Now United Auto finds itself with a $6.8 million bad faith judgment (including prejudgment interest) resulting from a jury trial from a lawsuit filed by the Levine Estate in which the jury was not permitted to hear crucial evidence that would have shown the company made every effort to meet all of its obligations. What's more, the estate's bad faith claim was based on an alleged assignment of rights from Jose Hernandez, who was insured by United Auto at the time of the accident. The Levine Estate never made any claim of its own against United Auto.

"We were denied a fair trial," said Richard Parrillo, Sr., chairman and CEO of the United Automobile Insurance Company. "Once the facts come out, it will become clear that an investigation of the proceedings should be initiated as soon as possible."

Represented by Co-counsels Raoul G. Cantero, III, former Florida Supreme Court Justice and Charles L. Vaccaro, United Auto is scheduled to argue its post trial motions before Judge Leesfield at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, October 20 at the Miami Dade Courthouse.

In addition to the jury not hearing the crucial evidence that make it crystal clear that United Auto made every effort to pay the estate, there were several other evidentiary and procedural issues detailed in the company's motions.

"I believe this was a bad faith claim set-up from the beginning, added Parrillo. "Unfortunately, it is abusive lawsuits like this that cost Floridians hundreds of millions of dollars in increased insurance rates."

United Automobile Insurance Company (www.uaig.net) is a property and casualty insurance company specializing in automobile insurance. The company is committed to providing its agents, and their customers, a quality product with state-of-the-art processing and claims service. Through its affiliates, UAIC provides a variety of insurance-related services including premium finance, claims processing and advanced on-line sales products. UAIC supports a host of organizations such as The Mike Lowell Foundation, Miami Children's Hospital, Children's Home Society, Heartsight Miami, The Boys and Girls Club of Broward County, St. Jude Hospital, Do The Right Thing, Florida's Children First, President's Fest in the Park, Aspira,The PASS Program and Switchboard Miami. Additionally, UAIG supports law enforcement programs, training and funded the Fallen Officer Memorial in Tropical Park.

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