COEUR d'ALENE - Earlier this week a 1st District Court judge ruled against Northwest Specialty Hospital's insurance company, which had refused to honor a settlement agreement.
The Post Falls hospital's insurance company, Illinois Union Insurance Co., entered the agreement in November 2011 with a brain-damaged Coeur d'Alene woman.
In February 2007, the woman suffered cardiac arrest and other severe injuries when she was negligently injected with a lethal dose of medication at Northwest Specialty Hospital. After a two week trial, the hospital's insurance company entered into a settlement agreement with the woman shortly before the jury returned its verdict.
Later, the company claimed its attorney did not have authority to enter into the $500,000 settlement agreement before the judge at the 2011 trial.
Judge John Luster disagreed.
"There should be no question that the parties intended to be bound by the high-low settlement," Luster wrote in his 31-page decision. "It appears to this court that such high-low agreements entered between the parties in open court should be honored."
He continued, "Otherwise, legal chaos and an abuse of the interest of justice would rule the day."
Luster observed that letting a party assert "it only meant to be bound if they won" would result in "trial after trial . . . and the party in the superior financial position would control the process."
"A deal is a deal," said attorney Craig Vernon, who brokered the settlement. "Our client should never have had to endure a second trial to force the insurance company to honor its agreement."
"It is important for all of us that insurance companies keep their agreements," said attorney Cynthia Meyer, who tried the second case resulting in the judge's decision. "Our client, at last, has justice."
"When I told our client the judge ruled for her, she broke down in tears," said attorney Steve Nemec. "But if the defendants appeal, it could be years before this ordeal is over for her."