A $1,188,735 jury verdict, believed to be a record in a Winneshiek County civil case, could have repercussions for the insurance industry, according to Decorah Attorney Nick Rowley, a partner at Trial Lawyers for Justice, a law firm headquartered in Decorah that represented the plaintiff in the case.
“This is not just a victory for our law firm, which wins hundreds of millions of dollars every year for injured people against insurance companies, but a great victory for our client who was badly brain injured as a result of negligence. This is a landmark victory for all insurance policy holders in the state of Iowa,” he said.
A Winneshiek County jury recently entered a verdict against Farm Bureau Property and Casualty Insurance Company awarding $1,888,735 in damages to James Long of Decorah in connection with a 2010 accident. While damages totaled more than $1 million, District Court Judge Margaret Lingreen could only order a $100,000 judgment against the defendant – the maximum Long could recover through his underinsured motorist coverage with Farm Bureau.
But Rowley said his firm is not done with the case.
“We will be suing the insurance company for bad faith, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees so that the insurance company knows not to treat Iowans this way in the future,” he said.

Background
Long filed a lawsuit in March of 2013 against Farm Bureau Property and Casualty, his insurance company, for underinsured motorist benefits under his automobile insurance policy.
Long was operating his motorcycle without wearing a helmet May 17, 2010, when his motorcycle was struck by a vehicle at the intersection of Day Spring Lane and River Street in Decorah.
Long subsequently made a claim for the policy limits of $100,000 under his policy, according to Dominic Pechota of Waterloo, a partner at Trial Lawyers for Justice. Pechota and another partner in the firm, Rodney Ritner of Decorah, represented Long during a trial on the lawsuit.
“Farm Bureau denied Mr. Long underinsured benefits under his policy asserting Mr. Long was at fault in causing the accident, refusing to pay its policy limits to Mr. Long after repeated demands. Mr. Long sustained a traumatic brain injury in the accident,” Pechota said.
The case was tried in Winneshiek County District Court from Jan. 27-Jan. 29 and the jury began deliberations Jan. 29. On Feb. 1, the jury returned a verdict of $1,188,735 against Farm Bureau Property and Casualty Company in favor of Long.
The jury, which determined Long was not at fault in causing the accident, awarded Long monetary damages based on past medical expenses, $188,735; past loss of full mind and body, $300,000; and past physical and mental pain and suffering, $700,000.
District Court Judge Margaret Lingreen entered a judgment against Farm Bureau in the amount of $100,000, the policy limits under Long’s underinsured motorist coverage with Farm Bureau.
Farm Bureau Property and Casualty Insurance Company was represented by attorney Ben Cook of West Des Moines. Decorah Newspapers’ attempts to reach Cook for comment on the case were unsuccessful.
Rowley said there are thousands of cases similar to Long’s in Iowa.
“Iowa has become a state where insurance companies have made their home because of favorable laws for their corporations, so the insurance industry should make sure to do right by Iowa policy holders. This is an example where they are not doing right by Iowa policy holders,” Rowley said.