$35 Million Verdict Against American General Life & Accident Company
Barnes V. American General, Et Al.
A jury slammed American General Life and Accident Insurance Co. on Friday afternoon with what may be Mobile County's largest-ever punitive damages verdict: $35 million.
Earlier Friday, another Mobile County jury delivered a $5 million blow against Liberty National Life Insurance Co. Attempts late Friday afternoon to reach attorneys for Liberty National and American General were unsuccessful. The plaintiffs' attorneys in both cases said they expect the companies to appeal.
Virtually all cases involving large verdicts are appealed. Verdicts are often decreased - sometimes significantly - when both sides agree to settle rather than go through the appeals process.
Friday's verdicts are likely to provide more ammunition for supporters of tort reform, the movement to rewrite Alabama's civil justice laws to limit the size of punitive-damage verdicts.
"The other side will say the jury went wild, but they didn't," said Mobile attorney George W. "Skipper" Finkbohner, who represented plaintiff Lillie Barnes in her case against American General.
The case focused on Ms. Barnes' allegations that American General hired agents the company know had been fired from other companies for defrauding customers, and then sent those agents "into the poor neighborhoods of Mobile," Finkbohner said after the verdict.