Jeffrey Thomas, ‘Extra-Contractual Liability in the Restatement of the Law, Liability Insurance: Breach of the Duty to Settle or Bad Faith?’

Abstract:
This paper focuses on the Restatement’s treatment of an insurer’s duty to settle and the duty of an insurer to act in good faith in handling liability claims. The duty to settle is framed as an objective ‘duty to the insured to make reasonable settlement decisions’. At the same time, however, a separate claim is retained for an insurer’s ‘bad faith’ breach of its duties (including the duty to settle). Further, a subjective element is adopted for the bad faith standard. To be liable for ‘bad faith’, an insurer must act ‘without a reasonable basis for its conduct’ and must also act with ‘knowledge of its obligation to perform or in reckless disregard of whether it had an obligation to perform’. This use of the objective and subjective standards creates a new paradigm, one that distinguishes between the duty to settle and ‘bad faith’ conduct and applies different standards for liability. This paper begins with a general description of the standards and the case law in support of them. It then turns to some implications of the new paradigm, both in terms of the damages available to insureds and the application of the standards to insurer conduct at the margins of reasonableness.

Thomas, Jeffrey E, Extra-Contractual Liability in the Restatement of the Law, Liability Insurance: Breach of the Duty to Settle or Bad Faith? (May 17, 2017).

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