Court upholds verdict by insurance agent against Lincoln National for outrageous conduct; decides numerous evidentiary issues
Eodney Ellis sued Dykema Gossett and Lincoln National Life Insurance after he learned that Lincoln National pursued an unwarranted fraud case in an attempt to "scare" him into giving up his life insurance "book of business." After Lincoln National made a number of uncorroborated claims with the NASD and others, Ellis learned that it had been conspiring with his estranged sister to intimidate him, even after it could find no evidence of wrongdoing. He was provided with notes that indicated LIncoln National's purpose was to "scare" him into giving up his book of business and that contradicted formal statements Lincoln's and his sister's attorneys had made in court.
Ellis secured a verdict of $990,000.00 for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress against Lincoln, but the jury rejected his claim for malicious prosecution. The judge refused Lincoln's appeals about the great weight of evidence and for remittur and Lincoln appealed these decisions and many evidentiary rulings relating to work product, admissions, and other issues. Ellis appealed the award of costs to Lincoln on the malicious prosecution ruling.
The higher court issued a long opinion agreeing with the trial judge's management of the case and no abuse of discretion. It noted that given Lincoln's attempt to "scare" Ellis into giving up his livelihood and its effort to force Ellis to defend his reputation from fraud claims, Lincoln's conduct could be characteriaed as "outrageous" and the award was within the range of reasonable decisions. It pointed out that this was particularly true, since Lincoln had conspired with Ellis's sister in making and pursuing claims that neither it nor she could corroborate.