Poling v. Motorists Mut. Ins. Co
In Poling v. Motorists Mut. Ins. Co., 192 W.Va. 46, 450 S.E.2d 635 (1994), the plaintiff, Jeffrey Poling, was rear-ended by a drunk driver, William Bonar, who was driving his father's vehicle without permission and without a valid driver's license.
The insurer of the Bonar vehicle finally settled with Poling after twelve months of repeated attempts to resolve the property damage and personal injury claims.
At the time of settlement, the insurance company tendered a settlement agreement that contained a release of both the tortfeasor and the insurer. Poling released the tortfeasor but refused to release the insurance company.
Poling subsequently filed a lawsuit against the insurance company alleging bad faith insurance practices. The insurance company argued that settlement of the underlying tort claim precluded an unfair claim settlement practices legal action from being filed against it.
The Court disagreed and held:
"A cause of action for insurance bad faith may arise even if there has been a settlement and release of the underlying case against the tortfeasor so long as the release does not cover the insurer and the insurer is, or should be, aware of the possibility of a bad faith action at the time it agrees to the settlement." (Syllabus Point 2, Poling, supra.)