PATRICIA J. BERRY, ET AL. Plaintiffs-Appellees
TYLER A. MULLET, ET AL. Defendants-Appellees and HOME-OWNERS INSURANCE CO. Defendant-Appellant.
from the Holmes County Court of Common Pleas, Case No.
Plaintiffs-Appellees: THOMAS J. INTILI INTILI & GROVES,
Defendant-Appellant: CRAIG G. PELINI NICOLE H. RICHARD
PELINI, CAMPBELL & WILLIAMS, LLC
JUDGES: Hon. William B. Hoffman, P.J. Hon. Patricia A.
Delaney, J. Hon. Earle E. Wise, Jr., J.
Appellant Home-Owners Insurance Company ["HOIC"]
appeals from a July 24, 2018 Judgment Entry of the Holmes
County Court of Common Pleas overruling its motion to
bifurcate the punitive-damages and bad-faith claims of
appellees, Patricia J. and Craig P. Berry.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
This case arose from a motor vehicle collision on June 7,
2014 in Holmes County, Ohio. Appellees were struck by a
vehicle driven by Tyler Mullet when Mullet failed to stop at
a stop sign.
Appellees are Michigan residents and have an automobile
insurance policy with HOIC. The policy includes a type of
coverage known as personal injury protection
Appellee Patricia Berry was seriously injured in the crash
and has incurred significant expenses. As the beneficiary of
a Michigan auto insurance policy, the PIP provision
potentially entitles her to lifetime medical payments
coverage for injuries sustained in the collision.
Mullet's vehicle was insured by State Farm.
Patricia's collision-related losses exceed the liability
limits of Mullet's policy, therefore Mullet is an
underinsured motorist under the terms of appellees' HOIC
HOIC has paid "at least" $155, 861.21 for
Patricia's collision-related medical treatment and lost
wages pursuant to the PIP provision of the HOIC
On June 3, 2016, appellees filed a complaint against Mullet
Patricia underwent a defense medical examination in Michigan
on March 9, 2017. In anticipation of mediation, a Civ.R. 35
examination of Patricia occurred on August 1, 2017. Appellees
assert both physicians hired by HOIC concluded that
Patricia's post-collision symptoms and treatment are
related to the collision.
HOIC advanced Mullet's $100, 000 auto policy liability
limits in April 2017. Appellees complain, though, that HOIC
has failed or refused to waive its claims for subrogation and
reimbursement; failed or refused to settle the
underinsured-motorist claim; and threatened to terminate
Patricia's PIP benefits.
Appellees sought and were granted permission to file an
amended complaint on March 14, 2018, adding new claims
against HOIC for insurance bad faith and wrongful termination
of PIP benefits. Appellees allege HOIC failed, refused, or
unreasonably delayed paying their underinsured-motorist
claim. Further, appellees asserted the bad-faith failure or
refusal to settle, and the wrongful termination of the PIP
benefits, entitled them to an award of punitive damages.
In the meantime, the pending mediation was canceled. Both
parties allude to discovery disputes throughout the course of
On June 14, 2018, HOIC moved the trial court to bifurcate the
tort and underinsured action from the bad-faith and
punitive-damages claims. HOIC asked the trial court to try
the case in two stages, the first being the
underinsured-motorist claim. At the first stage, appellees
would be precluded from presenting evidence on the bad-faith
and punitive-damage claims. The second stage, trial of the
bad-faith and punitive-damages claims, would proceed only if
appellees prevailed in the first stage. Further,
appellees would be permitted to present evidence in support
of punitive damages only if the jury awarded compensatory
damages in the first stage.
HOIC also moved the trial court to stay discovery on the
bad-faith and punitive-damages claims.
On June 15, 2018, appellees served a second set of
interrogatories and request for production of documents upon
HOIC relative to the bad-faith and punitive-damages claims.
Appellees requested, e.g., HOIC's claims file on
appellees' claims; the methods and criteria by which HOIC
valued appellees' underinsured claim; the internal
analysis regarding appellees' potential comparative
negligence; and HOIC's internal investigation
reports and procedures relating to appellees' claims.
Appellees sought and were granted an extension of time to
respond to HOIC's motions to bifurcate and to stay
discovery. Appellees ...