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Bethel jury awards plaintiff record $17 million judgment in civil suit

A jury on Tuesday awarded a former Bethel woman injured in a car accident more than a decade ago nearly $17 million, the biggest such civil verdict ever in Western Alaska, according to the plaintiff's attorney.

Attorney Myron Angstman, who represented plaintiff Angelina Trailov and her mother, Mary Kenick, in the case against Allstate Insurance Company and its adjustor Kathy Berry, said the judgment was the largest he knew of in the Bethel area, toppling another case he tried in 2004 involving a teenager injured by a folding table.

Trailov was 15 when she was injured in a car wreck in 2002, suffering a skull fracture, a punctured lung and other injuries, some with lingering effects.

The case concerned whether Allstate Insurance properly handled the claim against the driver. Trailov was a passenger.

The case had been litigated for roughly 13 years, Angstman said.

"All three lawyers working for the plaintiff turned into old men while this case was working its way through the courts," he said.

The decade-plus of litigation culminated in a jury trial held over the past two weeks in Bethel.

A jury returned a verdict Tuesday afternoon, Angstman said, determining that the insurance giant and its adjuster were "negligent and reckless" and awarded compensatory damages to Trailov and her mother of roughly $1.9 million.

The jury awarded punitive damages of $15 million in the case.

The $17 million figure will be adjusted, and the plaintiffs will likely see only a fraction of it, Angstman said.

A corporate spokesperson for Allstate, the largest publicly held insurer in the nation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"We expect an appeal, of course," Angstman said.

Punitive damage awards are relatively rare, especially on the scale seen in the case, he said. An Alaska law that requires that half of all punitive damages be returned to state will further erode the figure.

Trailov and her mother now live in Anchorage, Angstman said.

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