But that’s not what happened. The insurer was not notified and did not defend Northern, such as by filing a responsive pleading to the suit. When a defendant ignores its obligations under the law, a court is free to decide the legal dispute in favor of the other side. That action, in the form of a default judgment, was entered against Northern. With Northern’s liability for Russell’s injuries no longer an issue, Russell’s attorney moved forward by having a trial in late 2019 to determine damages.
Russell suffered a brain injury, back injuries, nerve damage and a broken wrist, rib and pelvis. He needs long-term medical, rehabilitative and mental health care and cannot work or maintain his home and property, according to the court, which awarded Russell $5 million, plus $2.5 million in interest and the possibility of additional interest until he’s paid.
Russell, an Air Force veteran who served overseas and is in his 40s, “remains totally disabled by his injuries,” his attorney, Travis Graham, said in an interview.
After the case closed, Graham notified the company of the outcome. Northern contacted the court and asked the judge to rewind the case back in time. That triggered a review of why Northern had not acted.
According to the judge’s opinion, Northern’s representative emailed the lawsuit to a sales executive at the insurance brokerage who did not have direct responsibility for handling lawsuits or claims. The Northern representative did not specifically address the brokerage representative in the email, except to say “please see the attached.” In addition, there was no evidence presented that anyone from the brokerage acknowledged receiving the email, much less that it had been forwarded to the insurer for action.