Is Georgia’s Court of Appeals hinting at taming “unnecessarily convoluted” Holt Demands in the future? – by J. Robb Cruser

In Simmons v. Bates, the issue before the Court concerned whether a binding settlement agreement had been formed, not whether a valid bad faith failure to settle claim existed against the insurer. But, in deciding the former, did the opinion provide helpful insights concerning the latter? The opinion noted that the offer “was 39 pages long and contained 30 footnotes” and expressed “…concern that this lengthy and unnecessarily convoluted offer appears to be intentionally difficult to accept…” For example, one of Bates’ arguments was no settlement agreement was formed because “Simmons impermissibly denied liability by referring to the collision as an ‘accident.’” The Court even added, the “law is clear that Bates was permitted to be the master of the offer regardless of the reasonableness of the offer.”

“Regardless of the reasonableness of the offer…,” writes Judge Hodges. What does that mean? Is the Court of Appeals communicating something here? Will the Court’s “concern” regarding “unnecessarily convoluted offers” translate to anything meaningful when future bad faith failure to settle cases reach the appellate level? Will the Court of Appeals rule that “unnecessarily convoluted offers” are unreasonable as a matter of law and toss future bad faith failure to settle cases in situations where insurers are clearly trying to settle? We’ll have to wait and see as the Court’s final line teed up the sequel, “Simply stated, Simmons’ argument is one for another day.”

Simmons v. Bates