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Insurer Tenders Policy Limits Three Times To Settle Wrongful Death Claim

PLANTATION — On May 8, 2010, Joel Stiepleman, 69, died in a motor vehicle accident as he attempted to drive across Pine Island Road from the community where he lived for more than a decade.

Stiepleman, a sales representative for a lock manufacturer, is survived by his wife Diane Russo, along with two children and three stepchildren. “He was the best father in the world, the best husband, the most generous; he would do anything for anyone,” said his stepdaughter, Denise Scott, of Plantation.

The accident occurred at 10 a.m. on the 100 block of Pine Island Road, said a battalion chief for Plantation Fire-Rescue.

Five people, including a couple and their year-old child, were in one car operated by Christopher McGarvey, a seventeen year old. Joel Stiepleman was alone in his vehicle.

The driver of a third car, said one of the vehicles pulled in front of the other and was T-boned. However, he did not observe the speed of the McGarvey vehicle before it braked.

While Plantation police investigated the cause of the crash the McGarvey family made affirmative statements that Stiepleman caused the accident by pulling out into the path of the McGarvey vehicle.

A distraught Diane Russo reached out to Sam Coffey, Esq., because she knew that Joel was a cautious driver and was particularly careful about exiting onto Pine Island Road from their townhome complex because this is an area where speeding was prevalent.

Sam Coffey retained an accident reconstruction expert who determined that the McGarvey vehicle was traveling more than 80 mph in a 45 mph zone.

Sam Coffey retained an accident reconstruction expert who determined that the McGarvey vehicle was traveling more than 80 mph in a 45 mph zone. 

The accident happened minutes before 10 a.m. It was later determined that McGarvey was speeding towards a church seven miles to the South in Davie where his father, Rev. James McGarvey, was scheduled to minister at 10 am that day. This information was discovered through internet postings about the accident by Rev. James McGarvey.

Armed with this information a demand was issued to Rev. and Mrs. McGarvey through its insurer, State

Farm, to tender insurance policy limits within fifteen days otherwise the Estate of Joel Stiepleman would seek remedies under Florida’s bad faith laws. Sam Coffey also demanded underinsured motorist benefits from State Farm who insured Stiepleman and Russo. State Farm initially took the position that Joel Stiepleman caused the accident, but then tendered all three insurance policy limits the day before the timed demand was set to expire to avoid litigation.

Sam Coffey stated, “McGarvey was so clearly in the wrong that State Farm had no smart choice other than to pay the policy limits or face a bad faith trial down the road to collect the full measure of damages. Joel’s family can now begin the healing process.”

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