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Nebraska SC to hear Countrywide case

By Chris Rizo | Aug 31, 2009

OMAHA, Neb. (Legal Newsline)-The Nebraska Supreme Court will hear Wednesday why a district judge ordered a new trial in a long-running lawsuit involving Countrywide Insurance Agency and Florida.

The multimillion case involves the state of Florida and the Omaha, Neb.-based insurance company, and whether Countrywide should pay Florida $4.7 million in premiums and interest owed to a company Florida had taken over after it became insolvent.

Before it collapsed, United Southern Assurance Co. had been doing business with Countrywide Truck Insurance. In the 1998 lawsuit, Florida contends that Countrywide Insurance kept millions of dollars in premiums that were owed to United Southern Assurance.

The Nebraska Supreme Court said in February it wanted to know why Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon ordered a new trial in the case. Countrywide's owner, David Fulkerson, urged the state high court to probe the issue.

In 2006, Bataillon dismissed a jury and ordered Countrywide to repay $2.23 million in premiums owed to the United Southern Assurance, and pay $2.44 million in interest. The Supreme Court said a jury, not Bataillon, should have decided the case.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning's office will defend the judge's handling of the case. At a hearing Wednesday, the attorney general's office, court papers indicate, will argue that the judge made the correct decision when he ordered a new trial.

"Because this court concluded there are fact questions for a jury to decide, a reasonable interpretation of the opinion and mandate was that this court was remanding the matter for a new jury trial," Assistant Attorney General Tom Stine wrote.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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