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A Split 3 Judge Panel Of The Superior Court Reverses Twenty-One Million Dollar Bad Faith Verdict Against Nationwide

June 29th, 2018

In Berg v. Nationwide, 2018 WL 1702785 (April 9, 2018), a split three judge panel of the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed a Twenty-One Million Dollar bad faith award against Nationwide and remanded the case to the trial court for judgment in favor of Nationwide.  This case arose from a 1996 crash of Daniel and Sheryl Berg’s 3-month old Jeep Grand Cherokee.  Nationwide suggested that the Bergs have their vehicle repaired at one of its direct repair program shops.  The trial court found that the repair facility determined that the vehicle was a total loss, but Nationwide disagreed, saying that it “will never recover the difference in salvage value” if it totaled the vehicle.  Therefore, the vehicle was sent to another repair facility without the Bergs’ knowledge.  The repair was then completed, and according to the trial court, Nationwide determined that it was unsafe following its inspection but returned it to the Bergs anyway.  The Bergs only found out when a technician called and told them what had happened.  A verdict was entered against Nationwide following a bench trial conducted in the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County in June 2014,.

Nationwide appealed to the Superior Court which heard oral argument before Judges Stabile, Fitzgerald, and Panella.  In May of 2017, the case had to be reassigned to a new panel because Judges Stabile and Fitzgerald were deadlocked, and Judge Panella recused himself because his daughter worked for Nationwide.  A rehearing was then held before Judges Stabille, Ott, and Stevens in October 2017.

Judge Stevens filed a dissenting opinion in which he noted that the Superior Court’s standard of review requires affirming the trial court as the finder of fact if there is sufficient evidence in the record to support its findings.  He found that the record contained ample evidence to support the trial court’s verdict.

Before Ott, J., Stabile, J., and Stevens, PJE.  Dissenting opinion by Stevens, P.J.E.

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