Can appellants maintain a common law cause of action against the insurer?

California, United States of America

The following excerpt is from Hadland v. NN Investors Life Ins. Co., 24 Cal.App.4th 1578, 30 Cal.Rptr.2d 88 (Cal. App. 1994):

But the issue is not whether appellants suffered prejudice from the lapse of time; it is whether the Hadlands are legally barred from asserting the statutory claims. And it is no answer for the Hadlands to say they pleaded the equivalent of claims under section 790.03, subdivisions (a) and (b), albeit those claims bore a common law label. There is a difference, as the Moradi-Shalal court noted when it pointed out that plaintiffs retain available remedies against insurers, even without the right to maintain section 790.03 [24 Cal.App.4th 1585] causes of action. "[A]part from administrative remedies, the courts retain jurisdiction to impose civil damages or other remedies against insurers in appropriate common law actions, based on such traditional theories as fraud, infliction of emotional distress, and (as to the insured) either breach of contract or breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Punitive damages may be available in actions not arising from contract, where fraud, oppression or malice is proved. [Citation.] In addition, prejudgment interest may be awarded where an insurer has attempted to avoid a prompt, fair settlement. [Citation.]" (Moradi-Shalal v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Companies, supra, 46 Cal.3d 287, 304-305, 250 Cal.Rptr. 116, 758 P.2d 58.) Clearly, allegations stating a common law cause of action will not suffice as a basis for legitimizing statutory claims otherwise barred by Moradi-Shalal.

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