A panel of the state Court of Appeals has slammed an insurance company for refusing to defend a contractor against claims resulting from an accidental fire at a Georgia college, hitting both the insurer and its outside counsel with a monetary penalty for filing what the court considered a frivolous appeal.

In an opinion unusual for its critical tone, the appellate panel on Nov. 13 ordered a Bibb County trial judge to make Chicago-based Transportation Insurance Co. and Atlanta lawyer Dennis A. Brown of Buckley Brown each pay the contractor, Georgia-based Piedmont Construction Group, a $2,500 penalty. It upheld Macon Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Tilman E. “Tripp” Self III’s decision that Transportation Insurance is liable to Piedmont, although it said Self was wrong to decide the amount of the award without the input of a jury.

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