Underinsured Motorist Coverage And Standing To Sue

Here is a 2018, case with circumstances this insurance lawyer has not seen before.  The case is out of the San Antonio Court of Appeals and is styled, Virginia Bretado v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.

This case is an appeal from a motion for summary judgment granted in favor of Nationwide.  Bretado was struck from behind by Paul Moryl.  On the same day, Bretado filed a claim against Nationwide for underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits.  Later, Bretado sued Moryl.

Nationwide denied the claim, stating the Moryl’s insurance was sufficient to satisfy Bretado’s damages.

More than four years after Nationwide denied the claim, Bretado sued Nationwide for breach of contract.  Nationwide asserted the affirmative defense of limitations.

In evaluating the ripeness of a claim the Court considers whether the facts are sufficiently developed so that an injury has occurred or is likely to occur.

As to when a claim may be raised, an insured is not required to obtain a judgment against an UIM before pursuing against its insurer for UIM benefits.

In this case, Bretado alleged that her vehicle was it from behind by Moryl and she suffered injuries and damages.  She also alleged that Moryl had insufficient insurance coverage to compensate her for her injuries and damages and that her policy with Nationwide provided coverage for such situations and that Nationwide refused to pay the claim.

Bretado contends she lacks standing to sue Nationwide until she obtains a judgment against Moryl.  She argues that without a judgment establishing the liability and UIM status of the other motorist, it cannot be shown that Bretado has sustained or is in the immediate danger of sustaining some direct injury based on Natiowide’s denial because the prerequisites to coverage have not been established.

Thus, her argument is that the facts have not sufficiently developed so that an injury has occurred or is likely to occur.

However, taking as true Bretado’s pleadings that Nationwide breached her insurance policy by denying her claim for UIM benefits, Bretado has been personally aggrieved and she has standing to assert that claim against Nationwide.  This Court then cited cases that held “The issue of standing focuses on whether a party has a sufficient relationship with the lawsuit so as to have a ‘justiciable interest’ in its outcome.”  “A plaintiff has standing when it is personally aggrieved ….”  A determination of standing focuses on whether a party has a ‘justiciable interest’ in the outcome of the lawsuit, such as when it is personally aggrieved or has an enforceable right or interest.”

Bretado’s claim was ripe, when she had standing to sue, and trial court had jurisdiction to decide Nationwide’s motion.

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