(Memphis) We all pay premiums, but just how assured are you that your insurer will have your back if you need them?
WREG spoke with a Memphis man who says after decades of payments, his mother’s insurance company was less than loyal in return.
Brooks Monypeny still gets a smile on his face when he talks about his mom Kathryn and stepfather Emil Sadowski.
The two had both lost their first spouses, found love all over again and were married more than 30 years. The Sadowskis enjoyed their life together and spending time on the open road.
“They’d get a wild hair someday and just say I want to go see Nova Scotia,” laughed MonyPeny.
“They’d pack up the car, they wouldn’t even tell us they were gone!”
Monypeny added about Emil, “There wasn’t any walking around he just loved to drive and I mean he was good at it.”
Which is why MonyPeny was astounded to hear differently after Emil and Kathryn were in an accident.
It was March 11, 2012. The Sadowskis enjoyed a Sunday meal in the Wolfchase area.
“They made that trip probably a hundred times over the course of living out in Bartlett over 30 years,” said Monypeny.
According to the accident report, Emil was trying to pull out onto Highway 64, in a right turn lane, when a silver Subaru Impreza hit them.
“Hit them so hard, he spun them 360, maybe even bigger than that almost one and a half turns.”
So hard the Subaru crossed several lanes of traffic and landed across the street. Everyone was transported to the hospital, but Kathryn’s injuries were the worst.
Monypeny said once they reached the hospital, “They had to code her, heart stopped, they had to resuscitate her, they put an intubation tube down her throat, and she never really opened her eyes after that.”
After roughly two months, 81-year-old Kathryn Sadowski passed away. Emil eventually moved to assisted living.
“It was tragic,” Monypeny says about the loss of his mother and the change in his step-father’s life.
Sadly, the fight was far from over.
After the accident, the Sadowskis filed a claim with their insurance company State Farm.
The driver of the Subaru, Chamroeun Kheiv, didn’t have insurance, but the Sadowskis had uninsured motorist coverage. In fact, they had extra – more than $2 million worth.
“The agent said oh it’s clear, he was at fault, he’s uninsured…this should not be a problem.”
However, it was.
Monypeny exclaimed, “We couldn’t even understand it!”
Court records show State Farm blamed Emil for accident, said he broke the law and therefore denied the claim.
“I don’t think she would have every expected her insurer to act in this manner, it was just beyond us.”
“State Farm’s a good neighbor when they’re in the business of collecting premiums,” said Sadler Bailey.
Bailey represented Kathryn Sadowski and later her children and estate when they sued Kheiv.
He told WREG, “What you are buying is a promise.”
A promise Bailey says State Farm didn’t live up to.
Then, another turn.
In these situations, insurance companies have the right to try the case in their name, or in the name of the uninsured motorist.
Monypeny said, “Our mother’s insurer defended the driver of the other car, that had caused three-quarters worth of a million dollars worth of damage, has killed my mother and we had to sit there, one chair away from him!”
In late November of 2013, a jury ruled in favor of the Sadowskis, saying Kheiv was 85% at fault, and awarded them more than $3 million.
It was later reduced to just over $2 million due to a finding of Emil being 15% at fault and a cap on non-economic damages.
“Even today they have not paid a penny,” Bailey explained.
State Farm filed a motion for a new trial. It was recently denied.
Besides waiting on justice for his mother, MonyPeny is hoping his fight will inspire other families.
“I wrote every state legislator, I wrote every one of them, and sadly I’ve only gotten two responses.”
The same year a new law put a cap on non-economic damages, there were also significant changes made to the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, essentially removing the insurance industry from its scope.
MonyPeny says legislation aimed at so called greedy, trial lawyers and excessive damages, hurts families like his in the process.
“If you allow these companies to treat people this way, it’s not going to be long before it happens to somebody in your constituency and you need to pay attention.”
State Farm refused an on camera interview due to the pending litigation.
A spokesperson sent the following statement by email.
“We express our deepest sympathy to Emil Sadowski and his family, on the loss of Kathryn Sadowski. Under the provisions of the policy the Sadowski family had with State Farm, the Uninsured Motorist coverage provides for certain insurance when another driver without insurance is determined to be liable for the accident. In order for such a determination to be made, sometimes it is necessary to establish liability in a court of law, which was the case here. While the matter is still in litigation, we are unable to comment further.”