Washington Insurers Denied Right To Jury Trial

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On October 25, 2012, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that an insurer was not entitled to have the reasonableness of “covenant judgment” determined by a jury. Bird v. Best Plumbing Group, LLC, 86109-9, 2012 WL 5269734 (Wash. Oct. 25, 2012).

The insurer contended that the reasonableness hearing violated its right to jury trial under Article I, Section 21 of the Washington State Constitution because the hearing set the presumptive damages for the claimant’s soon-to-follow bad faith lawsuit against the insurer. The Court of Appeals rejected the argument, reasoning that the reasonableness hearing was an equitable proceeding with no right to trial by jury. The Court of Appeals then affirmed the trial court’s finding of reasonableness. The insurer appealed to the Washington Supreme Court, which affirmed.

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