Yesterday, the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed a $21,000,000 verdict against Allstate Insurance Company for defaming a Pine Bluff radiologist. Allstate repeatedly told injury victims, lawyers, and other doctors that this radiologist’s practice was illegal and fraudulent because Allstate wanted to minimize payouts for smaller claims. The radiologist lost at least $8,000,000 in income over more than a decade due to this defamation by Allstate and other insurance companies, and for this reason a jury awarded significant punitive damages. Rather than taking its lumps, Allstate appealed, and the Arkansas Supreme Court found:
[T]his course of conduct was taken by a nationally recognized insurance agency and, apparently in accordance with their national claims practices and procedures to curb small, soft-tissue claims.
This ruling explicitly acknowledges that Allstate has a specific set of practices designed to minimize claim payouts on smaller claims at the expense of the injury victim. As discussed before on this blog, when insurance companies fail to pay fair value for claims, oftentimes the injury victim winds up receiving government healthcare to treat injuries. Why should the taxpayers foot the ultimate bill for negligent acts when the very purpose of insurance is to pay to make injury victims whole?
What are the implications of this ruling? In Arkansas, it is the first acknowledgment by our high court that insurance companies have adopted the delay, deny, defend business model of defending claims. This ruling follows an increasing public awareness of the problem of insurers becoming more concerned with shareholder profits than protecting policyholders and injury victims. As one example, CNN did three reports identifying Allstate as a prime offender (youtube of part 1, part 2, part 3). Long term, we should all hope that this opinion is the first step towards making insurance companies serve the people, and not the other way around.