21st Century Ins. v. Super. Ct.Annotate this Case
Defendant Cy Tapia, a teenager living with his aunt and grandmother, was driving a vehicle which crashed, inflicting severe and eventually fatal injuries on his passenger, Cory Driscoll. Before his death Driscoll and his mother filed an action for damages. The parties established that the vehicle driven by Tapia was owned by his grandfather and that Tapia was entitled to $100,000 in liability coverage under an auto policy issued to Melissa McGuire (Tapia’s sister), which listed the vehicle as an insured vehicle and listed Tapia as the driver of the vehicle. The policy was issued by petitioner-defendant 21st Century Insurance Company. 21st Century offered to settle the action for the policy limits of the McGuire policy ($100,000). However, plaintiff1 also believed that Tapia might be covered under policies issued to his aunt and grandmother, each offering $25,000 in coverage and also issued by 21st Century. Plaintiff communicated an offer to settle for $150,000 to Tapia’s counsel; 21st Century contended that it never received this offer (although there was certainly evidence to the contrary). Inferrably having realized the seriousness of its position, 21st Century affirmatively offered the “full” $150,000 to settle the case against Tapia. Plaintiff did not accept this offer, but a month later plaintiff’s counsel served a statutory offer to compromise seeking $3,000,000 for Cory Driscoll and $1,150,000 for his mother Jenny Driscoll. Shortly before the expiration of this offer, 21st Century sent Tapia a letter warning him that it would not agree to be bound if Tapia personally elected to accept the offer. Nonetheless, Tapia agreed to the entry of a stipulated judgment in the amounts demanded by plaintiff. 21st Century paid $150,000 plus interest to the plaintiff. Tapia then assigned any rights he had against 21st Century to plaintiff. This assignment and agreement included plaintiff’s promise not to execute on the judgment against Tapia so long as he complied with his obligations, e.g., to testify to certain facts concerning the original litigation and 21st Century’s actions. This bad faith action followed. Petitioner's unsuccessfully moved for summary judgment, and petitioned the Court of Appeal for a writ of mandate to overturn the trial court's denial. Upon review, the Court of Appeal found that plaintiff’s efforts to pursue essentially a “bad faith” action as assignee of the insured was misguided. Accordingly, petitioner was entitled to summary judgment.