How about some hometown news: Team Insurance wins one it should have

I’m going do to something strange for Slabbed and link the hometown bi weekly paper, the Seacoast Echo, which the locals here affectionately know as the Poo-Poo Periodical.  While you can’t trust their reporting on the City of Waveland as it is hidden agenda driven IMHO you can trust the reporting from Circuit Court in Bay St Louis where Judge Roger Clark quickly dispatched what appears to be a borderline frivolous lawsuit against local insurance agent David Treutel. Former Sun Herald reporter JR Welsh has the skinny for the PPP:

The lawsuit was originally filed in Chancery Court in December 2005, and was later moved to Circuit Court. Trial began Tuesday and concluded late Thursday morning when Judge Roger Clark issued a directed verdict in favor of Treutel.

A jury of five men and seven women was impaneled, but jurors didn’t spend much time in the courtroom listening to testimony from Jolynne Trapani and Treutel. Jurors were sent to the jury room for much of the trial, while attorneys made motions and argued points of law and insurance.

The Trapanis were represented by Gerald Maples, of Pascagoula. Paul Delcambre, of Balch & Bingham, defended Treutel.

Thursday, Delcambre asked Clark to issue a directed verdict in Treutel’s favor and dismiss the issue because the Trapanis had failed to prove their case. The judge agreed.

“The court finds that the motion for directed verdict be sustained,” Clark said. He then called jurors back into the courtroom and told them, “as a matter of law, there is nothing for you to consider or decide in this case.” The jury was then dismissed.

“I’m satisfied with the verdict,” Treutel said following the ruling. “This is the only time in 27 years that I’ve ever had a lawsuit.”

Here at Slabbed we’re consumer bar positive or in other words we like trial lawyers since those folks give the average Joe access to the justice system. That said we’ve also blown raspberries at the trial bar when deserved and I think it is clear that Trapani lawyer Gerald Maples was in way over his head, both with his clients and his grasp of salient law in play here as we continue:

The Trapani case had already suffered serious blows earlier in the trial by two bench rulings from the judge.

First, Clark ruled that acceptable records were not submitted to establish profits or losses for the business. He granted a defense motion that records presented by the Trapanis not be allowed as evidence for jury consideration.

Next, Delcambre objected to allowing testimony from a plaintiff’s expert witness on whether or not Treutel acted properly when he ordered coverage for the Trapanis. Clark ruled that the expert witness, who had no insurance licenses or certifications, was not qualified to give opinions on the procurement of property and casualty insurance.

The decision process that resulted in Team Trapani pushing this case into a court room was dubious at best and I’m told Team Trapani is having a hard time accepting this crushing loss. The 2 lessons I hope everyone takes from this is that good business records have mucho value, especially after disaster strikes and that a business owner should be very proactive in assessing the risks that face their businesses.

One thing we don’t lack here at Slabbed is readers with credentials in the insurance business and risk management. I’m curious to hear what our readers think about this case.

sop

4 thoughts on “How about some hometown news: Team Insurance wins one it should have”

  1. This article does not give enough information to determine how solid, if at all, the judge’s rulings were. The plaintiff’s expert might have been wholly unqualified, or it might be that no licenses or certifications were necessary for the expert to give his/her expert opinion. For example, some lawyers with no insurance credentials or certifications know a hell of a lot more about an agent’s duties than the agents themselves. I’m not saying this is the case here, because again, this is a very superficial analysis of the case.

    We also don’t know why the financial records were not “acceptable.” With many small businesses that were destroyed in Katrina, all financial records were destroyed with the property. In the deposition of one Katrina homeowner, the insurance lawyer was incredulous when the plaintiff testified in his deposition that he did not have the blueprints/plans to the house. This was because the plans were in the house and there was nothing left but a slab. So clearly, the plans were gone and could not be reproduced.

    The judge might have been completely correct in these rulings, but this article does not tell us why.

    1. The Trapani’s used a 3rd party for their record keeping. Also I can’t recall the storm washing away copies of tax returns from the IRS Service Center.

      Restaurants/Bars are notorious for understating their cash business. I’m not saying that is the case here but some records should have been available, especially those the Trapani’s used to obtain their SBA loan.

      Like you I don’t know what they brought to court but it wasn’t enough for Judge Clark, whom was also judge in the case where my Mom won a substantial verdict against an insurer in a case involving an auto accident.

      What’s weird to me is Team Trapani passed over some very good lawyers, one in Hancock and several in Harrison/Jackson Counties to hire Maples, who hails from George County and evidently now practices 2 counties away in Jackson County.

      sop

  2. I like Sock don’t see enough information to make any real judgments but can tell you this, in all the years I have played the game… I don’t think I have received but 2 directed verdicts… Most Judges will just let a jury have the case….This must have been bad

  3. You both make good points, and Sop clearly knows more about the players than I do. But directed verdicts are so rarely granted, it makes me wonder if the defendant’s MSJ was denied, or if one was even filed.

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