The Sun Herald is reporting on Judge Bridges’s opinion in Lisanby v. USAA
Bridges’ decision came as a blow last week to attorneys for Adm. James Lisanby and his wife, Gladys, who won a judgment in court Friday against their insurer USAA for denying all but $46,000 of the Lisanbys’ claim that wind destroyed at least a third of their home. USAA said it was the storm’s surge, which is not covered under their homeowner policies.
Among the nearly $910,000 the jury awarded the Lisanbys was $86,000 each for mental distress and anxiety, which some thought should have opened the door for punitive damages.
In the opinion, Bridges found that USAA had an arguable basis for denying the claim, which is one of the tests, he listed.
“Mississippi law does not favor punitive damages,” Bridges wrote, “and such damages are… allowed only with caution and within narrow limits.”
He said that after reviewing the evidence he also found that USAA did not act with malice, gross negligence or fraud in handling the Lisanbys’ claim.
He said that doesn’t mean the company wasn’t negligent when it failed to pay the claim, as the jury verdict indicates, but that the negligence was not “gross.”