Insured's no fault PIP claim dismissed when unprepared for trial
Lillian Howell-Bell sued State Farm to recover PIP benefits, however, on April 16, 2010, less than three months before trial, her attorneys were allowed to withdraw from the case citing a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship. Howell-Bell said she talked to two other lawyers before she found a third lawyer who would represent her on June 10, 2010. The new lawyer filed a motion the next day to adjourn the scheduled June 26 trial, but the Court denied the motion and dismissed the woman's claim.
While the Court chastised the woman for failing to heed the trial judge's warnings over the need to hire substitute counsel, it appears the court was unduly harsh in failing to recognize the hardship involved in attempting to hire an attorney (on a contingent fee, no doubt) willing to step in to a case 70 days before trial. The Court paid lip-service to the public policy favoring giving all litigants a reasonable opportunity to resolve cases on their merits, before discarding that policy to dismiss the injured woman's claim.