Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court
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Dennis Hagenow was injured in an automobile accident with Betty Schmidt. Hagenow and his wife (Plaintiffs) filed an uninsured motorist claim with American Family Mutual Insurance Company. American Family denied the claim, determining that Schmidt’s vehicle was not an uninsured motor vehicle under Plaintiffs’ policy. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a breach of contract action against American Family. American Family moved for summary judgment, arguing (1) because Schmidt had automobile insurance at the time of the collision, she was not an uninsured motorist (UM) under the policy; and (2) Plaintiffs were not “legally entitled to recover” under the policy because a jury in Plaintiffs’ underlying action against Schmidt found Schmidt not liable for Plaintiffs’ damages. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiffs were not “legally entitled to recover” under Iowa law or their UM policy; and (2) Schmidt’s vehicle was not an uninsured motor vehicle under the terms of Plaintiffs’ UM provision. Remanded. View "Hagenow v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff formed a contract with Imperial Premium Finance with regard to a financing arrangement for life insurance. Imperial later assigned its interest in the arrangement to Defendant, a limited partnership with its principal place of business in California. Plaintiff filed a petition for declaratory judgment in Iowa, claiming that the contract was not valid. The district court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, concluding that that contacts of Imperial, the assignor, did not impute to Defendant, the assignee. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) an assignor’s contacts with Iowa are not automatically imputed to the assignee for purposes of obtaining personal jurisdiction over the assignee, but this assignee is subject to personal jurisdiction in Iowa based on its own contacts with this forum through the contractual relationships it assumed by the assignment; and (2) Defendant in this case did have the required minimum contacts to subject Defendant to personal jurisdiction in Iowa. Remanded. View "Ostrem v. PrideCo Secure Loan Fund, LP" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a passenger who was injured while riding in the vehicle of his brother, who had coverage, including underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, with Defendant. The policy contained a provision limiting the time to file an action to recover UIM benefits. Plaintiff brought this action to recover UIM benefits approximately one month after the deadline set forth in the policy. Defendant moved for summary judgment, claiming Plaintiff’s petition was untimely because he failed to file it within the policy’s two-year deadline. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff, as an insured and a third-party beneficiary of the policy, did not have greater rights than the policyholder, and therefore, Plaintiff could not avoid the contractual time limitation unless the policyholder under similar circumstances would have been able to avoid it; and (2) the record did not demonstrate either that the policy’s time limit was unreasonable or that Defendant should be equitably estopped from enforcing it. Remanded for entry of summary judgment in favor of Defendant. View "Osmic v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Douglas Moad was driving his truck within the course of his employment with Employer when his truck was struck by an oncoming vehicle. Douglas died from his injuries. Employer maintained workers' compensation services with Dakota Truck Underwriters (DTU), a South Dakota corporation with its principal place of business in South Dakota. Employer also maintained motorist liability coverage with Northland Insurance Company (Northland). Douglas and his wife Sharon maintained insurance coverage with Property and Casualty Insurance Company of Hartford (Hartford). Sharon filed a petition seeking damages from Northland and Hartford for uninsured motorist benefits. DTU filed a notice of subrogation lien, asserting that it was entitled to reimbursement from any proceeds obtained by Sharon as a result of the damages action. Sharon reached a settlement agreement with Northland and Hartford. The district court approved the settlement and granted Sharon's motion to extinguish DTU's lien, concluding that in the event DTU's untimely filing of notice of its lien did not bar its interest, Iowa law applied and barred DTU's recovery. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court utilized the wrong standard in resolving the conflict of laws question. View "Moad v. Dakota Truck Underwriters, Risk Admin. Servs., Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the Iowa Insurance Commissioner's interpretation of a recently enacted law governing dental insurance plans should be upheld. Petitioner, the Iowa Dental Association (IDA), filed with the Insurance Division a request for a declaratory order clarifying the meaning of "covered services" in the statute. The Commissioner issued a declaratory order stating that an insurer may limit the maximum fees charged by dentists for services that a generally included in the insurer's dental plan, even though they are not actually reimbursed by the insurer because of a plan restriction. The district court affirmed the Commissioner's declaratory ruling. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the services in question did not meet the statutory definition of "covered services" because they had not been reimbursed under the dental plan. Accordingly, an insurer may only impose a maximum fee on a service when a reimbursement has been provided for that service. Remanded. View "Iowa Dental Ass'n v. Iowa Ins. Div." on Justia Law

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A husband and wife applied for life insurance policies from Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company and later sued Farm Bureau for its alleged negligence in failing to notify them of their HIV-positive status. Farm Bureau settled the negligence claims, sued its insurers for indemnity, and sued its insurance broker for breach of contract and negligence in failing to provide timely notice to the insurers. The district court granted summary judgment (1) in favor of the insurers on the ground that Farm Bureau had failed to give them timely notice of the applicants' liability claims, and (2) in favor of the broker after concluding that even if the insurers had been given timely notice of the applicants' tort claims against Farm Bureau, coverage for those claims would have been precluded under two separate exclusions. In this appeal, Farm Bureau challenged the judgment in favor of the broker. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the underwriting exclusion would have precluded coverage for the applicants' claims even if the insurers had been timely notified under the policy's notice requirement. View "Farm Bureau Life Ins. Co. v. Holmes Murphy & Assocs., Inc." on Justia Law

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Chartis Insurance issued two workers' compensation insurance policies to Action Warehouse Company. Action, in turn, contracted with two tire companies to provide employees to operate tire warehouses owned by the companies and used exclusively to store the goods manufactured by the respective employers. Originally, Chartis classified the Action employees who staffed the warehouses under the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) classification code applicable to general warehouse employees. Later, Chartis retroactively and prospectively changed the employees' classification code to the code applicable to rubber tire manufacturing, resulting in a significantly higher premium. Action appealed. The NCCI Iowa workers' compensation appeals board ruled in favor of Chartis. The Iowa Insurance Commissioner reversed, and the district court affirmed. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the Commissioner had the authority under Iowa Code 515A.1 to consider an as-applied challenge to a workers' compensation liability insurance rating schedule approved for use in accordance with Iowa law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Commissioner did not have the authority to determine that a specific application of a plan approved under Iowa Code 515A.4 violated the statute's general purpose as outlined in section 515A.1 by being excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory. View "Chartis Ins. v. Iowa Ins. Comm'r" on Justia Law

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Employee was injured while working for Employer and was awarded permanent partial disability benefits. Employee subsequently petitioned to review-reopen his workers' compensation claim, seeking additional workers' compensation benefits, seeking reimbursement for additional postarbitration medical expenses, requesting a determination of the amount of workers' compensation benefits still owed by Employer and its insurer, and asking the court to decide whether the workers' compensation commissioner needed to enter an additional order compelling payment to enforce an arbitration award for the unpaid benefits. The district court (1) rejected Employee's petition for review as untimely; (2) affirmed denial of reimbursement for some of Employee's medical expenses; and (3) did not provide the requested calculation but ruled that a compel-payment order was unnecessary because Employee could seek a judgment to enforce the award. The Supreme Court (1) reversed as to the statute of limitations for a petition for review-reopening; and (2) affirmed as to the judgment regarding which medical expenses were causally connected to the work-related injury. Remanded to the district court for it to remand the matter to the commissioner with directions to decide the issues regarding the amount still owed to Employee by Employer and its insurer under the arbitration award. View "Coffey v. Mid Seven Transp. Co." on Justia Law

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Employee, who was injured while working for Employer, sought enforcement of an arbitration award he received from the workers' compensation commissioner against Employer and Employer's insurer. Employee requested the district court to determine the amount Employer and its insurer (collectively, Appellees) owed him under the arbitration award in light of Employee's claim that Appellees failed to pay all of the medical benefits, mileage reimbursements, and interest due under the arbitration decision. Appellees claimed a credit against any amount they owed Employee due to his third-party settlements. After a hearing, the district court declined to answer the issues raised by the parties and declined to determine the amount still owed to Employee under the arbitration decision, concluding that addressing the issues in Employee's petition required the district court to exceed its authority. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the district court for the court to remand the matter to the commissioner with directions to decide the issues Employee raised in his petition for judgment. View "Coffey v. Mid Seven Transp. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, farmers, purchased a Farm-Guard insurance policy from First Maxfield Mutual Insurance Association. Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company (Grinnell Mutual) reinsured the policy. Two years later, 535 of the hogs Plaintiffs were raising suffocated to death in Plaintiffs' building. Plaintiffs filed a claim with Grinnell Mutual to recover under the policy, but Grinnell Mutual denied the claim. Plaintiffs sued Grinnell Mutual for breach of contract. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The district court denied Grinnell Mutual's motion and granted Plaintiffs' motion based on the reasonable expectation doctrine. The court of appeals affirmed on alternative grounds, concluding the insurance policy was ambiguous and construing the ambiguity in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the policy was not ambiguous, and as a matter of law, the policy did not provide coverage; and (2) as a matter of law, the doctrine of reasonable expectations did not apply here. Remanded with instructions to enter judgment in favor of Grinnell Mutual. View "Boelman v. Grinnell Mut. Reinsurance Co." on Justia Law