Articles Posted in Uninsured/Underinsured Coverage

Lawyers handling insurance disputes involving uninsured motorist (UM) coverage should already know the law discussed in a recent case from the Southern District, Houston Division.  The case is, Eleazar Cantu, Jr. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company.

Cantu was injured when he fell off a truck driven by an uninsured motorist.  Cantu sued the driver, two other UM individuals, and State Farm and took a default judgment in the amount of $65,095.12.  Cantu demanded State Farm pay $30,000, the policy limit, and when State Farm declined to pay, Cantu sued State Farm.

State Farm moved for partial summary judgment, arguing that it is not responsible for paying the default judgment in the uninsured-motorist lawsuit because it did not consent to be bound by that judgment.  Mr. Cantu responded and cross-moved for partial summary judgment, arguing that State Farm’s knowledge of and participation in that lawsuit indicated its consent to be bound by the default judgment.

Insurance lawyers in Fort Worth and elsewhere need to read this case regarding settlement credits and under-insured (UIM) coverage.  It is from the Houston Court of Appeals [14th Dist.].  It is styled, Farmers Texas County Mutual Insurance Company v. Okelberry, et al.

Steven Okelberry and his wife, Patricia has UIM coverage with Farmers.  Steven and his two sons were injured in an accident caused by an 18 wheeler insured by Home State.  Steven suffered a neck injury requiring surgery and possibly future surgeries.

Home State settled Steven’s property damage claim for $20,066.12 out of a total policy limits of $750,000.  Steven and his two sons sued the 18 wheeler company and its driver for their personal injuries.

Mineral Wells attorneys who handle underinsured motorist claims need to read this Austin Court of Appeals opinion.  It is styled, Johnson v. State Farm Automobile Insurance Company.

This suit arises from a suit brought by Jerry Johnson seeking declarations construing the terms of two insurance policies following an automobile accident in which Jerry’s son, Jacob, was injured while Jerry was driving.

In 2008, Jerry and Jacob were traveling in Colorado in a rented car driven by Jerry when Jerry caused an accident which severely injured his 11 year old son. Jacob.  Jacob lived with his parents at the time of the accident and remained in the home until May 29, 2015, when he permanently moved out of the residence.  Jerry had an auto policy and an umbrella policy with State Farm.  The auto policy contains a provision, the “family member exclusion,” that excludes from liability coverage bodily injury to “any family member, except to the extent of the minimum limits of Liability Coverage required” by the Texas Motor Vehicle Safety-Responsibility Act, which was $25,000 at the time.  “Family member” is defined as “a person who is a resident of your household and related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption.”  The umbrella policy has a similar provision.  Jerry sought coverage under both policies.  State Farm refused coverage beyond the $25,000.00 minimum.

Most insurance lawyers know this – – that a first party uninsured motorist claim cannot litigate bad faith until there has been a resolution to the uninsured motorist (UM) part of the claim.  This is illustrated in the February 2017, opinion from the 14th Court of Appeals styled, In Re Allstate County Mutual Insurance Company.

Allstate was sued for UM benefits and at the same time sued for extra-contractual bad faith claims.  The Judge in the case would not sever and abate the extra-contractual causes of action from the UM claim and this mandamus action resulted.

The real party in interest, Alexa St. Julian was involved in an automobile accident with an uninsured driver.  Alexa was unable to reach a settlement with Allstate, who had made a settlement offer, and the lawsuit resulted.  Allstate sought for the UM claim to severed and abated from the extra-contractual claims.

Most insurance lawyers already know the law regarding uninsured (UIM) claims and extra-contractual damages.  A Dallas Court of Appeals opinion restates it.  The opinion is, In Re Geico Advantage Insurance Company and Celia Stefl.

This is a mandamus proceeding wherein the real party in interest, Marion Thorpe, sued Geico and Stefl to recover uninsured motorist benefits and extra-contractual damages following a motor vehicle accident.  The trial court denied Geico’s request for a bifurcated trial and this mandamus action resulted.

Mandamus relief is appropriate when a trial court abuses its discretion in denying a motion to sever and abate extra-contractual claims in an UIM case.

Lawyers who handle uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM) cases need to read this 2016, Corpus Christi Court of Appeals opinion.  The case is styled, In re Luna.

In this UM case, the Court conditionally granted a petition for mandamus where the insured sought to obtain the deposition of State Farm’s corporate representative.   In this case, Luna originally sued Armando Antunez, the intoxicated, uninsured motorist who caused Luna to sustain severe injuries.    Luna also sued State Farm for UM benefits and for extra-contractual claims.  The Court severed all three cases from each other and abated the UM and the extra-contractual case during the case against Antunez. 

During the original case filed against Antunez, Luna requested the deposition of State Farm’s corporate representative.   The trial court denied that request, and Luna did not challenge the Court’s decision in the case against Antunez.    Eventually, Luna took a default judgment against Antunez and began prosecuting the UM case against State Farm.  

An insurance law lawyer might be asked how uninsured motorist coverage works with workers compensation insurance.  One way that it works is explained in a 2016, Austin Court of Appeals opinion.  The opinion is styled Soledad v. Texas Farm Bureau.

Soledad was a passenger in a vehicle owned and leased by her employer, Schneider National Carriers, when it was involved in a single vehicle accident.  Jeff Noe, a fellow employee, was driving the vehicle.  Both were working with Schneider at the time of the accident, which was the result of Noe’s negligence.  Soledad suffered injuries.

Soledad had uninsured motorist (UM) coverage on her own personal vehicle with Farm Bureau.  Schneider had workers compensation insurance on its employees and also had liability coverage on its vehicles.

Attorneys handling uninsured / underinsured claims will find this article from the Claims Journal interesting.  The law discussed in the article is Missouri law but Texas law is similar and the results would probably be the same in Texas.  The article is titled, UIM Endorsement Doesn’t Cover Worker Injured While Not Occupying Employer’s Truck.

On October 6, 2016 the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, applying Missouri law, granted a summary judgment for Travelers Property & Casualty Company of America, after holding that the injured plaintiff was not insured by Travelers because at the time of the accident he was not occupying the vehicle that struck him.  The decision is titled Spiller v. Travelers Property Casualty Company of America.

The facts were straightforward.  Plaintiff was employed by a repaving contractor and was responsible for caulking  along a 12 mile stretch of a four lane highway.  While plaintiff was working on the roadway, he was followed by a truck with a flashing arrow, warning traffic approaching from the rear to move to the left lane because there was construction work in the right lane.  After several hours of work one day, the arrow board attached to the truck was struck from behind by another vehicle driven by one Paul Owens.  The force of the collision caused the truck following plaintiff to strike and injure him.

The Texas Supreme Court issued an opinion in October 2016, that needs to be read by Dallas and Fort Worth insurance lawyers.  It is styled, Van K. Martin v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company.

This is a summary judgment appeal.

Martin’s son was involved in an auto accident with State Farm insured, Jeffery Lonsdale.  No one was injured in the accident, but Lonsdale filed a claim for property damage, which was submitted to State Farm under Part A of Martin’s liability policy.  Martin filed a claim for property damage to his vehicle under Part D of the policy.  State Farm settled Lonsdale’s claim and provided coverage for the property damage to Martin’s vehicle.  Martin alleges that State Farm unreasonably concluded his son was primarily responsible for the accident without interviewing Martin’s son or other witnesses in the car.  Martin alleges he paid the deductible to have his vehicle repaired and paid “incremental semi-annual premiums” related to the accident.

Garner and Brock insurance lawyers who handle underinsured claims need to read this opinion from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The opinion is styled, Gaspar Gonzalez v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company.

Gonzalez sued Philadelphia for underinsured motorist benefits after Philadelphia refused to pay the benefits because Gonzalez failed to follow the requirements in an endorsement to his policy.  The endorsement expressly excluded “any claim settled without Philadelphia’s consent,” unless the “insured” gave Philadelphia “prompt written notice” of any “tentative settlement” and Philadephia “advanced payment to the ‘insured’ in an amount equal to the tentative settlement within 30 days after receipt of notification.”

Gonzalez had settled the case with the responsible third party for their limits of $25,000 prior to Gonzalez seeking underinsured benefits from Philadelphia.  Gonzalez filed suit against Philadelphia for breach of the insurance contract in State Court and Philadelphia removed the case to Federal Court.