Fifth Circuit Orders Judge Wingate “to proceed expeditiously”

A panel of the Fifth Circuit handed down James v. State Farm on June 21, 2013.  You can read it here:  2013.06.25 – Opinion

It is a very interesting opinion.  It is not often that you see a bad faith claim get traction in the Federal Courts of Mississippi.  The law on what makes a delay unreasonable is murky to say the least.  For example, compare Caldwell v. Alfa Ins. Co., 686 So. 2d 1092, 1098 (Miss. 1996)(affirming grant of summary judgment where insurance company delayed payment for three months in complex wrongful death claim, including a six-week delay after it completed its investigation) to Pilate v. Am. Federated Ins. Co., 865 So. 2d 387, 400 (Miss. Ct. App. 2004) (“[T]here may be cases where a delay [of payment for one month] could possibly be sufficient grounds for a bad faith claim.”)

There really is no bright line rule such as four months is ok, but five months is bad faith.  Regardless, the James panel dissected State Farm’s claim handling and found “as a matter of law that State Farm had no arguable or legitimate basis for its delay between July 20, 2006 through October 4, 2006, from January 17, 2007 through July 11, 2007, and from March 29, 2008 through July 29, 2008.”  By doing so, the panel reversed Judge Wingate and sent the case back to him for further proceedings.

Also of interest, the panel noted “State Farm’s summary judgment motion lay dormant in the district court for over two years” and ended the opinion with “we ORDER the district court to proceed expeditiously.”  That is a new one on me.  There may be other instances where a Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a United States District Court judge to move a case along, but this is the first one I remember reviewing.

Congratulations to Kevin Hamilton on the win for the plaintiff, but I will not be surprised to see a petition for en banc rehearing in the near future.

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About randywallace
I am a husband, father, attorney, outdoorsman and cook.

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