Farmers Insurance Will Pay $9.9 Million

July 20, 2005

Farmers Insurance Group Inc. was ordered to pay $9.9 million to two women for failing to defend them against a neighbor who sued for an injury at their condominium complex.

A Superior Court jury awarded the money to retirees Linda Williams, 65, and B.J. Walker, 80, who share a condo. They were sued by neighbor Juanita Wasson after she fell in front of their garage in 2001 and sustained a broken hip.

Wasson, who was 85 at the time, also sued the homeowners association for reimbursement of $60,000 in medical bills. She claimed Walker was responsible for the injury because she allegedly opened the garage door without first seeing if the driveway was clear.

The housing complex carried liability insurance with Farmers, which defended the association but not Williams and Walker. The insurance company filed a cross complaint against them, alleging Walker’s negligence caused the injury.

Walker and Williams also filed suit against Farmers.

In a May bench trial, Superior Court Judge James R. Dunn ruled that Farmers had breached its contract by failing to defend the two women.

The jury on Friday awarded $1.5 million to Walker and Williams for emotional distress, $8.3 million in punitive damages and $52,000 in contract damages.

Farmers said in a statement, “We disagree with the verdict.” The company is considering whether to ask for a new trial or to appeal.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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