Trial lawyer James O’Connell of the Berman & Simmons law firm won two significant jury verdicts for his clients in Maine courts earlier this year, as well as a jury-waived trial. All three were cases in which insurance companies refused to offer fair compensation to victims of accidents.
In the first case, O’Connell represented Loriann Rumley of Wilton, Maine. On Oct. 4, 2013, Rumley was driving on Essex Avenue in the town of Rumford when she was hit by another driver, Anita Theriault. Rumley suffered soft tissue injuries in the collision.
When Theriault’s insurer refused to offer a fair settlement, attorney O’Connell took the case all the way to trial at Oxford County Superior Court. Following a unanimous jury verdict on Feb. 2, 2017, Rumley was awarded $30,822 — nearly twice the amount of the insurance company’s best offer.
In the second case, O’Connell represented plaintiff Karen Turcotte of Mechanic Falls. On March 27, 2014, Turcotte visited her son, who lived in an apartment building in the town of Calais.
While leaving the building, Turcotte fell on a crumbling concrete stepping stone at the bottom of the exterior stairway. Because of the unsafe stone and inadequate railing, Turcotte fell and broke both of her ankles, O’Connell claimed in the lawsuit against the landlord. The landlord’s insurance company denied responsibility and refused to offer Turcotte any compensation. A two-day trial was held at Androscoggin County Superior Court, concluding with a jury verdict and judgment on Feb. 15 in favor of Turcotte, awarding her $75,000, plus interest and costs, in compensation for her damages.
O’Connell also prevailed in a bench trial in February against Vermont Mutual Insurance Group. The insurer had denied coverage for bodily injuries caused by the teenage son of a policyholder.
“The insurance company claimed its denial was proper because the teenager was not a ‘resident’ of his father’s household and because the teenager ‘intended’ to cause serious bodily harm during an altercation with our client,” O’Connell said.
Non-residents are not covered by the policy and intentional acts are also excluded from coverage. At trial, O’Connell successfully countered the insurance company’s arguments. The court found in favor of the plaintiff that the policy coverage does apply to this incident and injuries. Berman & Simmons attorney Alicia Curtis provided key assistance to O’Connell in that case, including outstanding work in defeating the insurance company’s motion for summary judgment before the trial.
“In all of these cases, we never would have been forced to go to trial if the insurance companies had been reasonable and provided fair compensation in the first place,” O’Connell said.
“Unfortunately, insurance companies today have realized they are more profitable by denying or low-balling all claims and simply making the process miserable — not only for injured people but for the policyholders who purchased the insurance.”
“When insurance companies are unreasonable, a person’s only recourse is to seek a jury verdict,” O’Connell said. “Our clients are happy with the results from these trials, and we are very appreciative of the hard work put in by the jurors.”
James O'Connell, Berman & Simmons