JURY AWARDS $1.62 BILLION TO ALABAMA WOMAN
Attorney Jock Smith, ‘Send Message To The Nation That Corporate Misconduct Will Not Be Tolerated’
TUSKEGEE, AL --A Macon County jury awarded Carolyn Whittaker $1.62 billion against Texas-based, Southwestern Life Insurance Company and agent James Richard Perry for fraud arising out of the sale and service of an insurance policy. Whittaker was represented by attorney and national partner Jock M. Smith of the National Law Firm Cochran, Cherry, Givens & Smith along with attorney Brian Strength. The verdict represented an award of $810 million against Perry and $810 million against Southwestern Life, each being responsible for $10 million in compensatory damages and $800 million in punitive damages.
Whittaker purchased a life insurance policy from Southwestern through its agent Perry in May of 1995. Although Perry collected cash premiums from Whittaker for several years, he failed to turn over all of them to the insurance company. Whittaker alleged that her policy lapsed in October of 1996, but Perry continued to collect premiums for several years. Whittaker testified that in December of 2001, Perry suggested that she should let her policy lapse. Suspicious, Whittaker contacted Southwestern Life and was informed that her policy lapsed six years prior.
“Smith was quoted as stating, “This was the worst case of corporate misconduct that I have ever witnessed! Carolyn Whittaker trusted her agent with cash payments for over six years, while he was stealing from her all the time. Southwestern Life was negligent in their hiring of Perry, if they had conducted a background search prior to hiring him they would have learned that he had a prior verdict against him for $5 million for the same conduct- stealing money from his customers- and that his license to sell insurance had been previously suspended. Southwestern also allowed Perry to sell its policies for over a year before having him appointed by the Alabama Department of Insurance.”
“We hope the verdict changes the way insurance companies hire and train agents. Our ultimate goal is to prevent others from suffering the same fate as Carolyn Whittaker.” Strength stated.
Famed attorney Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. was quoted as stating, “My national partner, Jock Smith’s love of justice for its own sake along with his commitment to serve the least of these was once again at work in this case. Justice was served in a case where a most egregious wrong was addressed by a jury. I am proud of Jock and Brian for doing the Lord’s work.”
Carolyn Whittaker was also quoted as stating, “I want to thank the jury for sending a message across America that intentional Corporate misconduct will not be tolerated by insurance companies preying upon policyholders.”
This is the second case in Macon County where Smith represented a citizen against a corporate giant and received a positive verdict. In 1999, he represented 77 year-old Artie Mae Jeter against Orkin Pest Control Co. for failure to repair her home and fraudulently concealing the damage. Jeter died before the proceedings went to trial, however, her estate was awarded $2million in punitive damages and $300,000 in compensatory damages.