The Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts has ruled that post-judgment interest is not included in any enhanced damages in connection with damages that have already been awarded under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act.
This comes after a Pennsylvania insurer and its claims representatives applied for further appellate review in Odin Anderson & others vs. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh PA & others to determine whether lower courts in Massachusetts erred in ruling that post-judgment interest should be doubled in connection with the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act.
In the appeal, the court considered the correct measure of punitive damages that should be assessed against the defendants, insurer National Union Fire Insurance Company and its claims representatives, American International Group Technical Services Inc. and AIG Claims Services Inc., following a 1998 accident in which a shuttle bus hit the plaintiff while he was crossing the street in downtown Boston, Mass.
Plaintiffs Odin Anderson, his wife and his daughter in May 2001 originally filed a personal injury action for injuries Anderson sustained after being hit by a bus owned by Partners Healthcare Systems and operated by one of its employees. They sought personal injury damages for negligent operation of a motor vehicle, negligent infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium.
The plaintiffs also filed a separate action in March 2003 against Partners’ insurers and claims representatives. Proceedings in that action were stayed pending resolution of the underlying tort claims, the court document states.
After a trial, a Superior Court jury awarded Anderson $2,961,000 in damages for the personal injury action and awarded his wife and daughter $110,000 each.
At a subsequent, jury-waived trial, a different Superior Court judge found the insurers and claims representatives violated Massachusetts law through “egregious, deliberate or callously indifferent actions, designed to conceal the truth, improperly skew the legal system and deprive the Andersons of fair compensation for their injuries for almost a decade,” the decision document states.
The judge awarded the plaintiffs treble damages, using the amount of the judgment to be multiplied by the combined amount of the underlying tort judgment and the accrued post-judgment interest on that judgement, the court document states.
The Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts, however, on February 2, 2017, granted the defendants’ application for further appellate review on whether post-judgment interest was included properly in the amount of the judgment to be multiplied under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act.
After review, the court found that in a case where the amount of actual damages to be multiplied due to a willful or knowing violation are based on the amount of an underlying judgment, that amount does not include post-judgment interest, the decision states.
“The plaintiffs have advanced no reason other than further punishing a defendant whose violation was wilful or knowing to suggest that, in enacting G. L. c. 93A, the Legislature intended a departure from the treatment of post-judgment interest in other contexts,” the opinion states.
The matter was vacated and remanded to the Superior Court for a revised judgment consistent with the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts’ opinion.
Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts’ decision after reviewing Union Fire Insurance Company’s appeal for proper assessment of damages. An earlier version of the story incorrectly implied information from a previous case including the insurer was involved in the findings of this appeal. Insurance Journal regrets the error.
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