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I’Bad faith’ suit stayed in $4M case

A Richmond federal court has applied the brakes to an auto-accident plaintiff’s attempt to collect a $4 million judgment she won in Richmond state court last October.

Sheila Womack, a 29-year-old office assistant, claimed she suffered a head injury when Jerrene Yeoman made an improper left turn and their cars collided. Yeoman admitted liability, but contested the head injury. Yeoman had a GEICO policy with $300,000 in liability coverage, and Womack had $1 million in underinsured motorist coverage from Transportation Insurance.

After Yeoman cited a debt from the $5 million lawsuit as a claim in her bankruptcy court filings, Richmond Circuit Judge Margaret P. Spencer ruled Yeoman could not take inconsistent factual positions in litigation, and entered summary judgment for Womack. Transportation’s petition for appeal, Record No. 112283, is pending in the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Womack went to federal court and sued for breach of contract and damages for bad faith denial of insurance coverage.

U.S. District Judge Henry H. Hudson said the Virginia Supreme Court hasn’t really ruled on just when there is an enforceable judgment that triggers the UIM carrier’s duty to pay. Womack’s judgment is not a sure thing.

Hudson said he could not assume the validity of the state court judgment, as a review of the record as submitted by the parties “would not readily support that assumption. To the contrary, Transportation’s appeal raises issues that are far from facially frivolous.”

Hudson stayed Womack’s suit to enforce the judgment.
–Deborah Elkins

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