MAY 2013 BAD FAITH CASES: COURT REFUSES TO HOLD THAT CARRIER ACTED UNDER COLOR OF STATE LAW; DISAGREES WITH PLAINTIFF THAT CARRIER ACTED IN BAD FAITH

In Andrekovich v. PennPrime Liab. Trust, the plaintiff was a police officer whose employment was terminated after a prisoner in his custody died. The officer filed suit against the borough for which he worked, the borough’s liability insurance carrier and two attorneys appointed by the carrier, alleging deprivations of liberty and property under §1983. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that defendants, including the carrier, engaged in a “joint action” to file false charges and terminate his employment without the proper procedural safeguards.
The plaintiff alleged further that the carrier and the Borough refused to reinstate him or award him back pay. Furthermore, he alleged that the carrier caused the Borough to pursue frivolous appeals to the Court of Common Pleas and the Commonwealth Court. According to the plaintiff, these acts were coordinated to reach a settlement in the wrongful death action filed against the Borough by the deceased prisoner’s estate.
The court determined that the plaintiff’s civil rights were violated. However, the court ruled that the carrier was not acting under the color of state law, rendering it an improper defendant in the plaintiff’s civil rights suit. As such, the carrier could not be held liable for bad faith conduct in its litigation of the underlying wrongful death action and subsequent termination of the plaintiff.
Andrekovich v. PennPrime Liab. Trust, 2:12cv195, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29781, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (W.D. Pa. Mar. 5, 2013) (Cercone, J.)