Posted by H. Lee Pruett
On June 23, 2006, a truck driver insured by Great West Casualty Company clipped a car while changing lanes, causing an accident. Minutes later, another truck rear-ended a car which had slowed because of the first accident. Nora Bloomfield, a passenger in the car, was killed in the second collision. Bloomfield’s husband brought a wrongful death action against both truck drivers, their employers, and their insurers. The Great West defendants made a $25,000 offer of settlement pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-68. Plaintiff rejected it. At trial, the jury found the second truck driver 100% at fault for the wrongful death. Great West then sought $69,000 in attorney’s fees pursuant to the statute as the amount awarded-$0-was less than the amount offered to settle. The trial court denied the request on the grounds that the $25,000 offer was not made in “good faith,” and, in Great West Cas. Co. v. Bloomfield, Case No. A11A1454 (Ga. Ct. App., Dec. 1, 2011), the Court of Appeals affirmed. This surprising result should be a reminder that attorney’s fees are not automatic even when the verdict clearly authorizes their payment and the defendant gives good reasons for the offer.