For over 40 years, numerous liability insurance companies, self-insured businesses, local governments, claims services and major corporations have looked to Bruce Hoof to protect their interests, and those of their insureds, throughout North Carolina.
In his insurance defense practice Bruce has consistently demonstrated an attention to detail, creativity and ingenuity which has included a particular ability to identify difficult to discern remedies and strategies. This has enabled him to reliably obtain optimal, and in several cases unexpectedly favorable, results for his liability insurance company clients.
Although Bruce’s offices have always been located in Durham, his insurance defense practice has extended from Manteo to Asheville as he has litigated cases on behalf of insurance defense clients in most of North Carolina’s 100 counties, in the state’s Business Court, in all three Federal District Courts in North Carolina and before North Carolina’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
That broad experience has included numerous jury trials, arbitrations, mediations and an extensive motions practice which has frequently enabled him to successfully dispose of claims without the uncertainties inherent in jury trials. In those proceedings he has litigated both claims directly against such insurance companies [“1st party claims” such as coverage disputes and Declaratory Judgment actions] and lawsuits against such carriers’ insureds [“3rd party claims”].
Additional Information: Representative Insurance Defense Clients
His extensive litigation of 1st party claims has enabled Bruce to become particularly skilled in the interpretation of insurance policy contracts and fluent in the statutes and case law related to coverage issues.
Bruce’s defense of 3rd party claims has encompassed claims asserting numerous different substantive legal theories and arising out of a variety of factual situations. They have included various commercial and business claims and class action lawsuits. Most of those lawsuits, however, have involved allegations of personal injuries.
Such claims have arisen out of automobile and construction site accidents, have alleged inadequate security, premises and products liability, and have involved workplace injuries and dog attacks. Bruce also has extensive experience defending professional negligence claims including those alleging legal, medical, pharmacist and chiropractic negligence.
An insurance company’s obligation to make a financial payment for a personal injury claim almost always requires that a claimant establish three separate elements which are like links in a chain. They are legal liability, physical injuries and insurance coverage. In the course of his extensive experience in insurance defense, Bruce has repeatedly proven himself skilled at protecting his insurance carrier clients by identifying, developing and then exploiting the weak links in such chains and thereby demonstrating an “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over” approach to defending claims against his liability insurer clients.
His significant success in winning cases by negating the legal liability link in that chain is attributable in part to Bruce’s broad knowledge of and skill at utilizing the Rules of Civil Procedure and of Evidence; the product of an almost constant focus on the application of those rules during his over 40 years of experience practicing civil litigation. Bruce’s fluency with the discovery provisions of the Rules of Civil Procedure has enabled his effective motions practice which has frequently enabled him to dispose of plaintiff’s lawsuits procedurally – such as by summary judgment – without incurring the expenses of jury trials. Bruce’s reputation for knowledge and the adroit utilization of these rules is such that peer attorneys have described him as a procedural wizard.
Examples of his procedural skills enabling him to defeat liability include two similar cases in which the plaintiffs had sustained several hundred thousand dollars in personal injury damages; at the time Bruce was retained everyone else involved in the lawsuits assumed they were “clearly liable cases”; but Bruce’s investigations revealed that those lawsuits had actually been filed against the wrong corporate defendants. Using that information Bruce was able to defend those cases with such procedural skill that the plaintiffs’ did not recognized their errors in misidentifying the defendants until after the applicable statutes of limitations had expired. Consequently, Bruce not only was able to have those cases dismissed without any liability for his insurance company clients; but he was able to do so after it was too late for those plaintiffs to sue the correct defendants.
Bruce has also had considerable success minimizing or even negating the physical injury link in that chain. Such results have in part been attributable to Bruce’s years of experience defending cases involving a variety of often complex medical issues concerning the severity or causation of physical injuries. Doing so required Bruce to spend considerable time studying medical literature, examining individual medical records and consulting with and deposing medical experts and treating physicians. That in turn has enabled Bruce to develop a significant level of medical knowledge, particularly with regard to those physical conditions which are most frequently presented in personal injury claims.
That experience has also enabled Bruce to develop relationships with a number of highly respected medical professions who provide a constant resource to Bruce’s insurance defense practice with whom he is able to consult in his evaluation and defense of personal injury lawsuits and, if appropriate, retain as medical expert witnesses
Bruce’s so acquired “medical education” and relationships with physicians enables him to identify exaggeration of claimed injuries, malingering by claimants, and claimed accident related medical problems which are actually pre-existing conditions or have caused unrelated to a subject incident.
Bruce has also demonstrated a particular ability to interpret and construe insurance policy contracts and various differing insurance coverages so as to establish that his insurance carrier clients have not owed coverage [the 3rd link in that chain] even in cases in which claimants’ counsel have proved both legal liability and personal injuries supporting an award of compensatory damages.
The unanimous 2015 decision of the North Carolina Court of Appeals in Dion v Batten is an example of both this ability and of Bruce’s “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over” litigation philosophy. Prior to Bruce being retained, his client [an underinsured motorist [UIM] insurance carrier], the plaintiff’s attorneys and all other counsel involved in that case [including counsel for a workers compensation carrier asserting a lien on any monetary recovery] had assumed it a foregone conclusion that the UIM coverage provided by Bruce’s insurance company client would be consumed paying the judgment entered against the at-fault driver in that case, which was ultimately determined to be an amount of about a quarter million dollars.
By that decision, however, Bruce persuaded the Court of Appeals to accept an entirely new interpretation of the interrelationship between those provisions of the North Carolina’s Motor Vehicle Act which mandate certain UIM coverage and NCGS § 97-10.2. That statute provides that workers compensation insurance carriers shall have a lien in the amount of their payments of workers’ compensation on monetary recoveries made by an injured employee in a civil action against a non-employer who caused their employment related injuries.
The Court of Appeals thereby recognized and established a new theory of North Carolina law which was developed and first articulated by Bruce in his post-verdict motions in that lawsuit. The consequence of that ruling was that Bruce’s UIM carrier client owed no coverage for any amount of that judgment. Bruce’s obtaining that result demonstrated his unusual talent for construing the interrelationship of such insurance coverages with statutes and related case law to the benefit of his insurance defense clients.
Bruce stays current on developments in insurance defense law through his involvement in the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys [NCADA], the professional organization of North Carolina’s Insurance Defense Bar and through the excellent Continuing Legal Education opportunities it offers. Bruce is a senior member, and a former Board member of the NCADA.