An arbitration panel has awarded $2.48 million to the father of a delivery man who was killed after he hit a parked SUV that was blocking the road in a highway, the family’s attorney reports.
Walter Wood of the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin in Durham reports that the victim, Mikal Bacon, was delivering packages before dawn in 2017 when his truck approached an SUV that was parked on the eastbound side of U.S. 74 in Columbus County. The SUV didn’t have its lights on and was partially blocking the road, and Bacon couldn’t avoid crashing into it, Wood said.
Bacon then lost control of his truck, which overturned and landed in a ditch. Bystanders saw Bacon climb through the truck’s passenger window and lie on the side of the truck and heard him complaining of breathing difficulties, but the bystanders couldn’t assist him because of the position of the truck. When EMS arrived 10 minutes later, workers pronounced Bacon dead at the scene.
One of the bystanders and a N.C. State Trooper noticed the smell of alcohol on the breath of the operator of the SUV, Michael Rice, who admitted to drinking and smoking marijuana that night, Wood said. Rice refused a breathalyzer test, but four hours later, his blood alcohol content was .04. Rice was charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle.
Rice’s liability insurance carrier, Progressive Insurance, said it will tender its minimum policy limits for $30,000, and Bacon’s underinsured motorist carrier, State Farm Insurance, said it will tender $50,000, but another UIM carrier, State Auto Insurance, didn’t make an offer on a $500,000 policy, so the matter was taken before an arbitration panel, which found that Bacon wasn’t contributorily negligent and that Rice was negligent.
State Auto that denied it was liable for any money amount beyond $500,000, so Bacon’s father is filing a lawsuit alleging bad faith on the part of the insurance company, Wood said.
“You don’t see this happen that often,” Wood said. “An award five times the amount of the policy limits should tell you that it was pretty obvious that they should have offered to tender the policy limit a long time ago. They are saying that they understand what the award is, but they only have to pay the policy limit.”
Christopher Stipes of Teague Campbell Dennis & Gorham in Raleigh represented State Auto. He could not be reached for comment.
Follow Bill Cresenzo on Twitter @bcresenzonclw
VERDICT REPORT — MOTOR VEHICLE WRECK
Amount: $2.48 million
Injuries alleged: Death
Case name: Carlton F. Bacon, Administrator of the Estate of Mikal U. Bacon v. Michael A. Rice
Case number: 18-CVS-1391
Arbitrators: Christopher Nichols of Raleigh, Kent Smith of Southern Pines and Palmer Sugg of Pinehurst
Date of verdict: December 2019
Insurance Carrier: State Auto Insurance
Attorney for plaintiff: Walter Wood of the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin in Durham
Attorney for defendant: Christopher Stipes of Teague Campbell Dennis & Gorham in Raleigh