Photo: Shutterstock.com

A Montgomery County jury has awarded $800,000 for an underinsured motorist claim after a woman was injured when her car was struck in a broadside collision. According to attorneys representing the plaintiff and a survey of The Legal archives, the award is apparently the largest UIM verdict from Montgomery County.

A jury in Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Gail Weilheimer’s courtroom returned the verdict March 1 in Kady v. Encompass Insurance for breach of contract. Following the award, the lawsuit is now teed up for another trial on plaintiff Karin Kady’s bad-faith claims.

Attorney Timothy Daly of Daly & Clemente, who, along with his partner Michael Clemente, represented Kady, said insurance companies generally don’t see suburban juries as plaintiff-oriented, but ”Montgomery County is changing, I think that’s fair to say, and Encompass Insurance and other insurance companies need to treat people fairly.”

“We are very much looking forward to prosecuting the bad-faith claim, given the size of the verdict,” Daly said.

The lawsuit stemmed from an October 2013 collision where Kady’s car was struck in the passenger door by the front end of another vehicle. The crash, which took place in the parking lot of the King of Prussia Mall, caused more than $8,500 in damage, and the car could not be driven from the scene. Kady allegedly suffered back injuries that required surgery as a result of the accident, and eventually settled with the driver involved in the collision for $45,000.

Kady sued Encompass Insurance seeking recovery of underinsured motorist coverage, but the carrier balked and, according to Encompass’ pretrial memo, contested Kady’s claimed injuries, noting that she had a long history of back problems prior to the accident.

Encompass’ pretrial memo contended that there was no indication the October 2013 accident aggravated or accelerated her spinal injuries, and that Kady only suffered sprains and strains that eventually resolved. Encompass further argued that the surgery was necessitated by her prior injuries.

Kady countered that, although she had pre-existing back injuries, she had been fine before the accident, and studies showed she suffered a lumbar disc bulge, spondylosis and bilateral stenosis. She treated with pain killers and physical therapy before undergoing surgery.

A unique factor in the case was that a doctor initially hired to perform an independent medical examination on Kady ultimately determined that she had suffered a serious injury and that she should undergo surgery. The doctor, Dr. Michael Kurd, eventually began treating Kady and performed the surgery on her.

Encompass sought to bar Kurd from testifying at trial about his prior independent medical examination, but the judge denied those efforts and allowed Kurd to testify about the issue.

That testimony, according to Clemente, was very persuasive to the jury.

“Seeing the insurance company not taking the word of their own doctor really made the jury want to send a message,” Clemente said.

The verdict was eventually molded to $750,000 to reflect the prior settlement.

Andrew Kramer of Kane, Pugh, Knoell, Troy & Kramer, who represented Encompass Insurance, did not return a message seeking comment.