The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, found the word “related” in a professional liability insurance policy’s limits of liability provision is unambiguous and a reasonable attorney would understand multiple acts of negligence in the course of representing clients in their personal injury claims arising from a single motor vehicle accident are “a series of related acts or omissions.” Accordingly, the Court of Appeals held demands by the attorney’s former clients constitute a single claim under the policy. Further, because limits of liability are not waivable and do not preclude defenses to coverage as a matter of law, the insurer was not estopped from asserting the policy’s limits of liability when it informed the attorney it considered the malpractice claims to be a single claim under the policy. And because of the attorney’s execution of an agreement pursuant to R.S.Mo. § 537.065 with his former clients was without the insurer’s consent, the attorney violated the policy’s cooperation clause and prevented the insurer from controlling the litigation, such that the insurer was not bound by the underlying judgment and was entitled to summary judgment in the resulting equitable garnishment action.
We cover current issues, highlights and best practices exclusively on claims of bad faith and extra contractual damages.
Under Florida Law Court Agrees the Insured and the Insured’s Attorney’s Conduct Are Relevant to Bad Faith
An insured motorist who sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident brought a first party bad faith action alleging the automobile insurer acted in bad faith in attempting to settle the claim for underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits. The district court granted summary judgment for the insurer; however, the Eleventh Circuit held that although actions of the insured or the insured’s lawyer were part of the “totality of circumstances” to be considered in bad faith claims, there were factual issues that still existed precluding summary judgment.
Tenth Circuit Affirmed Summary Judgment For Insurer On Bad Faith Claims After Finding Legitimate Dispute Of Coverage And No Evidence Of An Inadequate Investigation
The Tenth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of State Farm on the insureds’ count for bad faith relating to a property damage claim. The court found State Farm relied upon a legitimate dispute of the scope of coverage in initially denying and delaying agreement to an appraisal. The court further found the insureds had produced no evidence to support their claim State Farm performed an inadequate investigation of the claim. The insureds disputed the findings of State Farm’s investigation was insufficient to infer the investigation was inadequate.
Insureds Did Not Establish Consequential Damages to Support Claim for Breach of the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the insurer, USAA, finding the insureds failed to establish damages to support their claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Specifically, the court found the insureds failed to establish unusual emotional distress, recoverable attorneys’ fees, or recoverable diminution in value damages that could independently support the claim.
Washington Court of Appeals Finds No Preclusion for Bad Faith Claim After Resolution of UIM Benefits Action
Anastasia Fortson-Kemmerer (“Plaintiff”) sued Allstate Insurance Company (“Allstate”) to recover for bad faith and violation of the Insurance Fair Conduct Act (“IFCA”) for its actions when investigating her underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage claim. Allstate moved for summary judgment on the affirmative defense that Plaintiff’s previous action to enforce her UIM policy provisions operated as res judicata and barred her bad faith claim. The trial court granted summary judgment and Plaintiff appealed. The Washington Court of Appeals reversed, stating Allstate failed to demonstrate the operation of res judicata.