From the August 28, 2006 Missouri Lawyers Weekly
Clay County Circuit Court Judge Larry D. Harman delivered an equitable garnishment verdict and the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment against AMCO Insurance Co. in connection to a highway collision north of Kansas City in 2002.
Harman’s verdict followed a default trial and motions for summary judgment filed by both the plaintiff and defendant.
Robert DeMent was driving his car north on Interstate 35 on Jan. 12, 2002, when a trailer loaded with siding and installation equipment broke loose from a vehicle traveling south on the same highway driven by Jay D. Page, a subcontractor for Kevin Smith Construction.
The homemade trailer crossed the highway median and crashed head-on with DeMent’s vehicle. DeMent survived the crash but suffered from multiple lacerations and skull fractures, which required multiple surgeries and resulted in his being fitted with permanent surgical plates in his face and skull.
Kevin Smith and his construction company were sued for negligent hiring and retention. Page also was sued but settled before trial for $25,000.
Kevin Smith Construction’s insurer, AMCO, was notified of the litigation but failed to defend the company. Neither Smith nor a representative of his company showed for a Feb. 26, 2004, hearing in Jackson County Circuit Court, and Judge Vernon E. Scoville granted the plaintiff a default verdict and award of $750,000.
A second lawsuit for equitable garnishment was filed in Clay County to collect the award, plus interest, from AMCO, said plaintiff’s attorney Mark Murphy. The plaintiff claimed that the underlying judgment was issued based on a $2 million liability insurance policy to cover Smith.
DeMent was awarded the previous judgment principal of $750,000 plus interest of just over $159,041 for a total award of $909,041.
Legal counsel for AMCO Insurance Co. was unavailable to offer a detailed comment on this case, but Murphy said the insurer has indicated it will appeal.
“From our reading of the insurance policy, it was clear that the policy covered this occurrence,” Murphy said. “AMCO took a calculated risk by failing to defend its insured, which appears to have backfired.”