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Kristin H. Jones, Sara B. Richman and Brian Callaway of Pepper Hamilton.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Rancosky v. Washington National Insurance, 170 A.3d 364 (Pa. 2017), was one of the court’s most eagerly anticipated commercial cases of 2017 due to its possible repercussions for the insurance industry. It would be the first time the commonwealth’s high court would opine on the standard for proving bad faith—a punitive statute that can impose stiff penalties on insurers that mishandle insurance claims. Despite the hype, the opinion was first viewed as a bit of a snooze as the court predictably adopted a test first articulated by the Superior Court more than 20 years ago and seemingly left the status quo in place. As Rancosky sinks in, though, there are indications that it may reverberate in unexpected ways and be the rare case with dicta that is more significant than its holding. Most notably, the Rancosky decision has called into question the standard for imposing punitive damages against insurers.

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