Time and again, the nation's leading insurance companies hire Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell to defend first- and third-party claims that represent significant litigation priorities. From defending major class actions that involve an entire industry to defeating bad faith lawsuits that would set dangerous precedents nationwide, WTO lawyers have the experience, knowledge, and client-comes-first service philosophy to lighten the pressures facing adjusters and in-house attorneys.
WTO lawyers have extensive trial and appellate experience representing national commercial insurers and their insureds in high-stakes and high-profile disputes in federal and state courts and state supreme courts. For example, in 2016, Law360 named Travelers v. Stresscon, which WTO won for Travelers in the Colorado Supreme Court, one of the top five insurance cases of the year.
WTO is home to one of the premier class action defense practices in the nation. Six WTO attorneys have tried seven certified class action trials to juries, obtaining defense verdicts and favorable mid-trial settlements. Our teams have defeated certification and obtained dismissals of class action matters more than 175 times, and we have litigated class actions in 33 states. Insurers such as Allstate, AXIS, Farmers, and USAA have turned to WTO for the defense of class action litigation and trials.
- Persichette v. Owners Ins. Co., 462 P.3d 581 (Colo. 2020) - Won a groundbreaking state supreme court ruling disqualifying a client's former lawyers from participating in a lawsuit against the client. The published opinion is the first state supreme court decision that disqualifies lawyers from pursuing litigation against an insurance-company client they previously represented.
- Sunflower Condo. Ass'n v. Owners Ins. Co., No. 18-1478, 2020 WL 598981 (10th Cir. Feb. 7, 2020) - Won a significant appeal for Owners Insurance Company against a condominium association that filed an inflated insurance claim and sought more than $5 million in total damages.
- Won a defense jury verdict in New Mexico for USAA against underinsured motorist claims following a 2013 car accident. The jury found that the plaintiffs' alleged injuries were unrelated to the accident and decided in USAA's favor in less than 30 minutes.
- Won a defense verdict for an insurance company in Denver County District Court against a policyholder who had sued for uninsured motorist benefits. The jury found in less than half an hour that the plaintiff had failed to cooperate or comply with the statute of limitations.
- Owners Ins. v. Dakota Station II Condo Ass'n, Inc., No. 2015-cv-31037 (Jefferson Cty. Dist. Ct. Colo. 2020) - Won for Owners Insurance Company in the trial court on remand from the Colorado Supreme Court, proving that a policyholder-appointed appraiser was improperly biased and had inflated a $3 million property-damage appraisal award. The court vacated the inflated award in toto, granting all the relief Owners requested.
- Owners Ins. Co. v. Dakota Station II Condo. Ass'n, Inc., 443 P.3d 47 (Colo. 2019) - Won a groundbreaking ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court requiring insurance appraisers to be fully unbiased and impartial.
- Allen v. USAA, 907 F.3d 1230 (10th Cir. 2018) - Won a published Tenth Circuit opinion for USAA, clarifying that a one-year time limit on medical payments coverage is permitted under Colorado law. The opinion also resolved a separate class action WTO had been defending, in which the Colorado Supreme Court declined to answer questions certified by the District of Colorado.
- Sunflower Condo. Ass'n v. Owners Ins. Co., No. 16-cv-02946 (D. Colo. 2018) - Won a federal jury verdict in a trial for an insurer pursuing counterclaims against a homeowners association that filed an inflated insurance claim and sought more than $5 million in total damages. The Court entered judgment for the client for the full amount that had been paid in benefits, plus interest and costs.
- Lobato v. Travelers, No. 18-cv-00504-REB-MEH (D. Colo. 2019) - Secured a "walk away" dismissal of a multimillion-dollar underinsured-motorist lawsuit for bad faith and punitive damages. One month before trial, the plaintiffs agreed to drop the lawsuit, and the client paid nothing.
- Slavin v. Garrison Prop. & Cas. Ins. (D. Colo. 2018) - Won a defense verdict for USAA/Garrison in a bad faith jury trial in which the plaintiff claimed USAA must pay for a special run of bricks in order to fully repair the plaintiff's home. A 12-member jury unanimously rejected the plaintiff's claims, agreeing that USAA had acted in good faith.
- American Family v. Copper Oaks (D. Colo. 2018) - Won reversal of a $3 million property appraisal award against American Family and disqualification of the plaintiff's national property appraiser as well as the umpire on grounds that they were not impartial and failed to disclose directly relevant financial incentives and relationships.
- State Farm v. Griggs, 419 P.3d 572 (Colo. 2018) - Won an "extraordinary remedy" from the Colorado Supreme Court reversing a trial-court order implying a waiver of the attorney-client privilege. The unanimous opinion establishes that the mere "fact that privileged information might become relevant in a given lawsuit could not alone be enough to establish an implied waiver."
- Snyder v. ACORD, 2019 WL 319407 & 2016 WL 192270 (D. Colo.) - Represented seven codefendants in a property insurance class action lawsuit in Colorado. Plaintiffs claimed they were systematically underinsured in a "monumental" conspiracy, in violation of federal RICO and antitrust laws, and involving virtually all property insurers in Colorado as well as industry trade groups. WTO served as liaison counsel and argued the successful motion for the fee award of more than $1.5 million.
- Auto-Owners v. Summit Park, 886 F.3d 852 and 886 F.3d 863 (10th Cir. 2018) - Won complete affirmance in the Tenth Circuit of landmark rulings governing insurance appraisals. In two published opinions, the Tenth Circuit affirmed trial court rulings vacating an eight-figure appraisal award against the client, disqualifying for bias a national policyholder appraiser, and sanctioning the policyholder and its lawyers for misconduct in connection with the appraisal.
- Claycomb v. Fox (Colo. Ct. App. 2017) - Won reversal and remand of an adverse jury verdict and affirmed sanctions against opposing counsel. The defendant's insurer hired WTO to handle the appeal after the trial judge directed that the defendant be found at least 51% liable, leading the jury to award the plaintiff over $1,000,000.
- Allen v. USAA (D. Colo. 2017) - Obtained summary judgment for USAA against a putative class action alleging that USAA's time limitation on Med-Pay benefits violated Colorado law and that USAA failed to disclose the time limitation.
- Edwards v. USAA (Colo. Boulder Cnty. Dist. Ct. 2017) - Won a defense verdict for USAA against a claim of negligent misrepresentation after a contentious appeal. After prevailing on eight claims on summary judgment, one claim was remanded for trial after an appeal. USAA won on the final claim after a six-day jury trial in Boulder County.
- Byorth et al. v. USAA, 2016 MT 32 - Won Montana Supreme Court reversal of class certification against USAA in bad faith litigation and remand to the district court for further proceedings.
- Successfully represented a Fortune 20 company in class action and insurance litigation arising from a six-alarm warehouse fire in 2015, resulting in WTO's client paying just 1% of claims—and subsequently recovering that amount through affirmative claims against other parties and their insurers.
- McNamara v. USAA (Colo. Dist. Ct. Arapahoe Cnty. 2016) - Won a complete defense jury verdict for USAA in the first ever bad faith trial challenging USAA's handling of claims for medical payments coverage claims.
- Won a unanimous decision from the State of Colorado Multidistrict Litigation Panel defeating an effort to create a broad MDL for insurance bad faith cases that would have set a dangerous precedent in Colorado and other states. WTO successfully argued that the plaintiffs sought to incorrectly emphasize general claims handling guidelines over the individual claims decisions of each adjuster, and which could have been applied to any type of insurance coverage, not simply the cases at issue.
- Travelers v. Stresscon, 370 P.3d 140 (Colo. 2016) - Won Colorado Supreme Court reversal of a unanimous court of appeals ruling in a case of national importance to the insurance industry. In its ruling for Travelers, the Court held that the "notice-prejudice rule" does not apply to "no-voluntary-payment" provisions in insurance policies. This was WTO's fifth consecutive, fully-argued victory before the Colorado Supreme Court in two-and-a-half years. Law360 named Stresscon one of the top five insurance rulings of 2016.
- Auto-Owners v. Summit Park, 2016 WL 1321507 (D. Colo.) - Won order vacating a $10.87 million property insurance award and disqualifying a national property appraiser, and subsequently won sanctions against the policyholder and its lawyers, and won 99.7% of attorneys' fees and costs.
- Won a motion to dismiss and a subsequent award of attorneys' fees and costs for a large nationwide insurer involved in a dispute over coverage amounts for a home lost in the 2012 Waldo Canyon wildfire.
- Jewkes v. USAA (D. Colo. 2015) - Successfully defended insurer USAA in an insurance bad faith and breach of contract trial arising out of the devastating Waldo Canyon wildfire of 2012. The plaintiff voluntarily dismissed one claim the morning of trial, lost another claim, and was awarded just five figures on the third claim after having demanded more than $1 million.
- Fisher v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No. 2015-SC-472 (Colo. Sup. Ct.) - Represented three of the nation's preeminent insurance industry trade associations in an amici curiae brief urging the Colorado Supreme Court to grant certiorari review of a Court of Appeals decision that stands to rewrite virtually every UM/UIM insurance policy issued in Colorado.
- Nguyen v. USAA CIC (D. Colo. 2015) - Defeated putative class claims for bad faith and consumer protection act claims related to time limits for medical payments coverage.
- Represented Farmers Insurance in two Washington insurance class actions alleging unrepairable damage claims under UIM property-damage coverage.
- Serve as consulting and monitoring counsel to USAA in bad faith lawsuits involving medical payments and PIP coverage nationwide.
- Cortez v. USAA CIC - Won summary judgment for USAA based on a plaintiff's lack of standing in a putative class action regarding the contractual time limitation for medical payments coverage.
- Represented USAA as national trial and coordinating counsel in all medical payments and PIP lawsuits nationwide.
- Sipes v. Allstate Indemnity (D. Colo. 2013) - Won a complete defense verdict in a bad faith matter for Allstate before the United States District Court for the District of Colorado.
- Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Companies v. Skaj (D. Wyo. 2013) - Won summary judgment on issue of bad faith in a failure to defend case arising under a commercial auto policy. The trial court found coverage by estoppel under Wyoming law. The Tenth Circuit affirmed.
- King v. Allstate Insurance (D. Colo. 2013) - Won a complete defense verdict for Allstate Insurance Company in an insurance bad faith case brought in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado.
- Gold Peak at Palomino Park v. Wiliam W. George & Associates, et al. (Douglas Cty. Dist. Court 2012) - Defended negligence suit against retail insurance broker for allegedly failing to procure sufficient insurance under an Owner Controlled Insurance Program to cover an $18.2 million dollar construction defect verdict involving 250 condominiums.
- Won a unanimous jury defense verdict in a three-week trial in Denver District Court for USAA. WTO lawyers defeated breach of contract and bad faith claims in connection with USAA's refusal to provide coverage for a roof on the plaintiffs' property. The jury returned a complete defense verdict in less than one hour.
- Obtained a favorable settlement for a large excess insurance company in a medical malpractice case involving a permanent disability to a young child resulting from surgery conducted by a doctor who was not board certified.
- Obtained summary judgment from a Texas district court in a case alleging WTO's client, a life insurance company, committed fraud and violated consumer protection laws.
- Apodaca v. Allstate Insurance (Colo. June 20, 2011) - Won a Colorado Supreme Court decision favorable to WTO's client, Allstate, and all Colorado auto insurers in a purported class action involving disclosures associated with underinsured and uninsured motorist policies.
- Estate of Hill v. Allstate Insurance, 479 F.3d 735 (10th Cir. 2007) - Won affirmance from the Tenth Circuit of summary judgment for an insurer in a case seeking unlimited no-fault benefits for alleged failure to offer no-fault benefits.