Wrongful death UIM arbitration award of $399,269. Sacramento County.


Sister says her deceased brother's UIM insurer isn't paying enough for his wrongful death in a vehicle accident.

The Case

  • Case Name: Susan Lee, et al. v. Hagerty Insurance Agency, LLC, et al.
  • Court and Case Number: Binding Arbitration
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Monday, September 22, 2014
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, May 20, 2014
  • Type of Case: Vehicles - Auto vs. Auto, Wrongful Death
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Nicholas Lowe
  • Plaintiffs:
    Susan Lee, 57, elementary school teacher
    The Estate of Steven Luth, by its personal representative, Susan Lee
  • Defendants:
    Hagerty Insurance Agency, LLC
    Essentia Insurance Company
  • Type of Result: Arbitration Award

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $399,269
  • Net Verdict or Award: $399,269
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    The third-party claim is ongoing.  There were multiple parties involved in the collision.  There are two policies involved in this portion of the case totaling $30,000.  Hagerty has paid $399,269 less a credit of $30,000.00 for the third party insurance for a net payment to claimant of $369,269.

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: Both parties stipulated that Steven Luth was not comparatively negligent in the collision that killed him.
  • General Damages: $ 375,000
  • Economic Damages:


  • Trial or Arbitration Time: Single day arbitration.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Moseley C. Collins III, A Professional Law Corporation, by Moseley C. Collins III, Sacramento, for Susan Lee.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, by Deborah Tropp, Costa Mesa, for Hagerty Insurance.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Experts:
  • Defendant's Medical Experts:
  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
  • Defendant's Technical Experts:

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On October 27, 2013, at approximately 1:00 a.m., plaintiff's decedent, Mr. Luth, age 58, was driving his 1998 Mercury Marquis southbound on Interstate 5 in Yolo County. Mr. Luth was traveling southbound on Interstate 5 when he lost control of his vehicle for an unknown reason. His vehicle struck the west bridge railing and rotated multiple times before coming to a rest against the east bridge railing and blocking the southbound #1 lane.

    Very soon after Mr. Luth’s vehicle crashed into the bridge barrier rail, a second vehicle side-swiped Mr. Luth’s vehicle. (That driver said he could not see Luth's car because the headlights were broken.) At that time, Officer Milliron of the West Sacramento Police Department witnessed the second vehicle side-swipe Mr. Luth’s vehicle and turned on his emergency lights before pulling to the shoulder. Mr. Luth's vehicle was then hit by a third vehicle. Officer Milliron then saw Mr. Luth lying unresponsive in the roadway.

    It was the third collision that killed Mr. Luth. Officer Anderson, the investigating officer, offered the following summary:

    “P-1 (Luth) was involved in two (2) previous collisions while driving V-2. V-2 had become disabled and was stopped, facing in a north-westerly direction, against the east edge bridge railing and blocking the southbound #1 lane.  The headlights on V-2 had been damaged in one of the previous collision and were not working. P-1 had exited V-2 and was standing in the roadway near V-2. P-3 (Officer Milliron) was traveling southbound on I-5 on the Yolo Bypass in the #1 lane and saw the second collision involving V-2. P-3 moved to the #2 lane and slowed. When he saw V-2 he activated V-3’s emergency lights and immediately pulled V-3 to the right shoulder, stopping just south of V-2’s location. He then began to advise his dispatch center of the incident. P-4 (Washington) was traveling southbound on I-5 on the Yolo Bypass in the #2 lane at approximately 68 mph and was approaching P-1, V-2, and V-3 from the north. P-4 saw V-3’s emergency lights and he began to change lanes into the #1 lane.  P-4 failed to see V-2 in the #1 lane and the front of V-4 struck the front of V-2. This impact forced the rear of V-2 into the raised concrete bridge railing wall which caused V-2 to pivot around this contact point and rotate in a counter-clockwise direction.  As V-2 rotated the left side struck P-1, throwing him in a southerly direction and P-1 impacted with the asphalt roadway causing fatal injuries.”

    Officer Anderson found Mr. Washington at fault for this collision because he was in violation of Vehicle Code 22350, traveling at a speed unsafe for conditions with an associated factor of previous collisions.

    Susan Lee is Mr. Luth's only heir and was appointed the administrator of Mr. Luth’s estate after his death. 

    Liability was not contested by the insurance companies covering the other drivers. 

    Both parties stipulated to the following:

    - Steven Luth was covered by a policy of underinsured motorist coverage issued by Respondent, Hagerty Insurance Agency, LLC, and said insurance was in force on October 27, 2013, at the time of his death.

    - Claimant, Susan Lee, completed all prerequisites necessary to seek a recovery from Hagerty Insurance for the wrongful death of her brother, Steven Luth, pursuant to the underinsured motorist policy purchased by Steven Luth before his death.


  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Pursuant to CACI 3921, Plaintiff was entitled to damages in each of the following categories:

        Economic Damages

    1.                   Loss of financial support;
    2.                   Loss of gifts or benefits; and
    3.                   Funeral and burial expenses.

         General Damages

    1.                   Loss of love;
    2.                   Loss of companionship;
    3.                   Loss of comfort;
    4.                   Loss of assistance;
    5.                   Loss of protection;
    6.                   Loss of affection;
    7.                   Loss of society;
    8.                   Loss of moral support; and
    9.                   Loss of guidance
  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That the award should be $200,000.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Blunt force injuries resulting in fatality.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $449,000
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $250,000

Additional Notes

Funeral expenses totaled $24,269.74 plus wrongful death damages for plaintiff's loss of her adult brother.

Policy limit was $500,000 per person, $500,000 per incident.

Claimants demanded the limits of the Hagerty policy.  Respondents offered $125,000.00, then $200,000.00, then $250,000.00.  At the arbitration, Hagerty's counsel asked the Arbitrator to award $200,000.   The case was then tried before Nicholas Lowe as Binding Arbitration.

Defendant Essentia Insurance Company is the underwriter for defendant Hagerty Insurance.  Hagerty Insurance is the company that actually wrote the insurance policy.