B&C Wins Over $1.1 Million in Jury Trial on Breach of Contract Issues

Published on in Firm Highlights

Jake Curtis Aaron Edens Leslie Chatburn

B&C Shareholder, Jake Curtis, assisted by associates, Aaron Edens and Melissa Iyer Julian, and paralegal Leslie Chatburn, represented a small commercial dive operation, Deepwater Divers, Inc., in recovering over $1.1 million in damages and lost profits from Wells Fargo Insurance of Arizona, inc. on breach of contract issues.  After a five-day trial, the jury concluded that the agent failed to provide proper maritime insurance coverage in a timely fashion, resulting in the loss of a major contract for Deepwater Divers.

Deepwater Divers was formed by two Navy trained divers, one of whom served under Master Chief Master Diver, Richard Radecki, technical advisor for the Hollywood movie "Men of Honor," an autobiography on the Naval career of Carl Brashear (played by Cuba Gooding), the first African American U.S. Naval Deep Sea Diver. The two men met while both were commercial dive instructors at College of Oceaneering in Los Angeles.  They formed Deepwater Divers to provide underwater services for oil pipelines and platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Through a connection at the College of Oceaneering, Deepwater Divers was introduced to the insurance carrier to provide maritime insurance, a complex and expensive form of professional liability insurance.  Unbeknownst to Deepwater Divers, the carrier was not experienced in this unique form of insurance and farmed out the coverage to another company.  The first year of coverage went fine but, when the policy expired, Deepwater decided not to renew since they had no pending contracts.  Shortly thereafter, they received a new contract and immediately contacted their broker and informed him that they had a new contract for over $300,000 and needed insurance prior to the commencement of work.  The broker told them it was “no problem.”

Due to the inexperience and incompetence of the broker, the policy was not secured and Deepwater lost the contract, destroying its reputation in the Gulf, such that they never received another contract in the area.  Despite numerous attempts by B&C to settle the case on behalf of Deepwater, the carrier refused to come to any reasonable settlement.  During closing arguments, Curtis demanded $450,000 in compensatory damages plus unspecified lost future profits and lost goodwill, while the defendant claimed Deepwater should receive nothing.

The jury returned a verdict in Deepwater’s favor for $1,134,442 in damages.  Deepwater’s application for attorneys’ fees, costs and prejudgment interest is pending.

According to Curtis, “the principals of Deepwater Divers are two really great working-class guys.  They loved what they were doing and were devastated to lose the contract and their work in the Gulf.  They wanted to work and had every right to believe their insurance carrier would help them, not destroy them through incompetence.  This verdict is not only long-overdue, it is a vindication for these two great guys who just wanted to be able to work at something they loved and at which they excelled.”

Congratulations to Jake, Aaron, Melissa, Leslie, and their client, Deepwater Divers, Inc. on a well-deserved victory!