Insurer's Unreasonable Failure to Accept a Settlement Offer

An insurer that has itself entered into a settlement agreement cannot avoid a suit for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing on the grounds that the matter did not proceed to trial and judgment. In Isaacson v. California Ins. Guarantee Assn., supra, 44 Cal. 3d 775, for example, the insurer agreed to pay a portion of a settlement offer. Rather than proceed to trial, the insureds paid the remaining portion themselves. In a later action for reimbursement brought by the insureds against their insurer, the Supreme Court held that the insureds were entitled to judgment against the insurer if they could prove that the insurer in fact acted unreasonably in failing to accept a settlement offer on a covered claim. ( Id. at pp. 793-794.) The procedure recognized by the court in Isaacson, however, is limited to facts such as those present there, where the insurer participated in the settlement agreement, and with that participation completed its defense of the claim. Under those circumstances, the damages of the insured, if any, were fixed by the settlement, and the reasonableness of the insurer's actions must be determined in light of the information available as of the time of the settlement.