Justia Insurance Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Mississippi Supreme Court
Honeycutt v. Coleman
Plaintiff Charles Honeycutt was injured in an automobile accident involving a Mississippi state trooper. He sued the state trooper and two automobile-insurance providers, Atlanta Casualty Company and American Premier Insurance Company. The trial court granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment. Plaintiff filed a writ of certiorari, seeking to appeal the grant of summary judgment for American Premier: (1) whether the trial court and the Court of Appeals erred by finding an insurance agent does not have a duty to explain uninsured-motorist coverage; (2) whether summary judgment was granted improperly. The Supreme Court found that, in order to obtain a knowing and voluntary waiver of uninsured-motorist coverage (UM coverage), an insurance agent does have a duty to explain UM coverage to the insured. The Court also found that summary judgment was not proper in this case. Thus, the Court reversed both lower courts' judgments and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Honeycutt v. Coleman" on Justia Law
Felter v. Floorserv, Inc.
After an administrative judge (AJ) ruled on a claimant's petition to controvert a workers' compensation claim, the claimant had twenty days to file a notice of appeal with the full Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission. In this case, the issue before the Supreme Court was whether an AJ's order, handed down more than twenty days after the AJ's ruling and granting a claimant thirty additional days in which to prosecute her claim, should be given legal effect by the Commission so that the claimant's notice of appeal, filed within the additional thirty days, would be considered timely. Upon review, the Court found that, under the facts and circumstances presented, such an appeal was timely. View "Felter v. Floorserv, Inc." on Justia Law
Liberty Mutual Insurance Company v. Shoemake
The issue before the Supreme Court in this case concerned the proper procedure by which a workers' compensation insurer may enforce a subrogation claim arising under Mississippi Code Section 71-3-71. Richard Shoemake was injured in Alabama but received workers' compensation benefits from Liberty Mutual Insurance Company under Mississippi law. He brought and settled a third-party action in Alabama state court and reimbursed Liberty Mutual only the amount it was entitled to under Alabama law. Liberty Mutual, which knew of but did not join or intervene in the Alabama lawsuit, then sued Shoemake in the Circuit Court of Newton County, seeking full reimbursement as allowed under Section 71-3-71. In granting Shoemake summary judgment, the circuit court held that Alabama law applied and further concluded that res judicata and Liberty Mutual's failure to intervene in the Alabama action barred Liberty Mutual's claim. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Mississippi law governed the amount of Liberty Mutual's subrogation claim and that Liberty Mutual was not required to intervene in the Alabama action to become entitled to reimbursement under Mississippi law. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court found that 71-3-71 requires a workers' compensation insurer to join or intervene in a third-party action to become entitled to reimbursement, it reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the circuit court. View "Liberty Mutual Insurance Company v. Shoemake" on Justia Law
Mississippi State & School Employees’ Life and Health Plan v. KCC, Inc.
KCC, Inc., d/b/a Vital Care of Meridian (Vital Care) filed a complaint against the Mississippi State and School Employees' Life and Health Plan ("the Plan") and the Plan’s pharmacy benefits manager, Catalyst Rx, alleging that the Plan and Catalyst had violated Mississippi Code Section 83-9-6 by designating Walgreens Pharmacy as the sole provider of specialty pharmacy services. Later, Vital Care moved for partial summary judgment on the question of whether Section 83-9-6 applied to the Plan. The Chancery Court granted Vital Care’s motion for partial summary judgment, and the Plan and Catalyst appealed. Upon review of the applicable statute, the Supreme Court found that Section 83-9-6 applied to the Plan because it applies to "all health benefit plans providing pharmaceutical services benefits, including prescription drugs, to any resident of Mississippi" and was not ambiguous. View "Mississippi State & School Employees' Life and Health Plan v. KCC, Inc." on Justia Law
Southern Healthcare Services, Inc. v. Lloyd’s of London
The insureds in this case filed suit against their insurers claiming they were unaware their insurance policy had a $250,000 per-claim deductible and alleging that the insurer breached its insurance contract by refusing to provide a defense until the they paid the $250,000 deductible for each of five separate claims. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the insurers and the insureds appealed. Upon review of the circuit court record, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment. View "Southern Healthcare Services, Inc. v. Lloyd's of London" on Justia Law
Knight v. Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi
This appeal by Dorothy Knight arose from a 2011 circuit court order. In it, the circuit court affirmed an administrative decision by the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) denying disability benefits. Upon review, a majority of the Supreme Court concluded that Knight met her burden, and that PERS' decision to deny her claim was not supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court reversed the appellate and circuit courts' rulings and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Knight v. Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi" on Justia Law
Fulton v. Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Ins. Co.
After Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Co. (Farm Bureau) delayed payment of Robert Fulton's uninsured-motorist benefits, Fulton sued. The jury found Farm Bureau negligent for failing to timely investigate and pay Fulton's claim, awarding Fulton $10,000 in extracontractual damages. The jury did not find that Farm Bureau acted grossly negligent, reckless, or in bad faith and awarded no punitive damages. Following the jury's verdict, Fulton filed a post-judgment motion to amend, seeking $120,773 in attorney’s fees and expenses. The circuit court denied the motion, analyzing it under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) and finding that Fulton had not shown reason to amend. Fulton appealed the denial of his motion, arguing that attorney's fees were collateral to the final judgment and outside the scope of Rule 59(e). The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the circuit court, holding that the court at least should have considered awarding them. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the Court of Appeals erred in classifying attorney’s fees as "collateral." Fulton had no post-judgment right to attorney's fees because the jury did not award punitive damages, and neither a statutory nor a contractual provision authorizes such fees. The circuit court, by properly applying a Rule 59(e) analysis, did not abuse its discretion in denying Fulton’s motion. Therefore, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated and affirmed the circuit court's decision. View "Fulton v. Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Ins. Co. " on Justia Law
Hankins v. Maryland Casualty Company
In July 2001, Kaye Hankins entered into a home-construction contract with Elite Homes, Inc. ("Elite"). An August 2001 soil-test report on the subject property recommended that "a stabilizing blanket of natural silty clays . . . and/or compacted fill soils having a maximum 7-foot thickness" was required "to minimize the Yazoo Clay . . . swell or heave potential to within limits tolerable to a strong slab foundation . . . ." Hankins received assurances from Elite that the Yazoo clay "was nothing to be concerned about." She moved into the new home in April 2002. During Hankins's first year in the home, she reported to Elite numerous cracks, leaks, and difficulties in closing doors and windows. In September 2009, Hankins filed a complaint against Elite averring "that the damage which has occurred to said house . . . would not have occurred except for the negligence" of Elite. Thereafter, a "Default Judgment" of was entered against Elite. In August 2010, Hankins filed a "Suggestion for Writ of Garnishment" against Elite's commercial general liability ("CGL") insurer, Maryland Casualty Company/Zurich American Insurance Company ("Maryland Casualty"). In October 2010, a default judgment was entered against Maryland Casualty. Subsequently, Maryland Casualty filed a "Motion to Suspend Execution of Default Judgment against Maryland Casualty and For Leave to File Answer to Writ of Garnishment," which argued, inter alia, that because its CGL policy "exclud[ed] coverage for property damage caused by earth movement," then it "has no property or effects in its possession belonging to" Elite. Maryland Casualty then filed a "Motion for Summary Judgment" on the same basis. The circuit court concluded that the "earth movement" endorsement "excludes the damages suffered by [Hankins] from coverage under the policy." Based thereon, the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurance company, and set aside the default judgment. Upon review, the Supreme Court found Maryland Casualty's "earth movement" endorsement was unambiguous and operated to exclude the property damage Hankins suffered from coverage under the CGL policy. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the circuit court's order granting summary judgment to the insurance company, and the setting aside of the default judgment. View "Hankins v. Maryland Casualty Company" on Justia Law
Indemnity Insurance Company of North America v. Guidant Mutual Insurance Company
In 1994, while en route to the scene of a fire, volunteer fireman James Hingle collided with a vehicle occupied by Sam and Ruby Anderson. Hingle was driving his personal vehicle at the time of the accident. The Andersons filed suit against Hingle, Marshall County, the volunteer fire department, and the Marshall County Board of Supervisors. The Andersons claimed that their injuries and damages amounted to $4,150,000. At the time of the accident, Hingle had two insurance policies with Guidant: personal automobile liability policy with limits of $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident, and an umbrella protection policy with a $1,000,000 limit. Marshall County had a business automobile liability policy with a $300,000 limit through INA, which covered non-owned automobiles and provided coverage to the volunteer fire department. A dispute arose regarding which insurance company should defend the litigation and which provided primary coverage. INA filed a declaratory-judgment action against Guidant in the Circuit Court of Marshall County. INA asked for a judgment declaring, inter alia, that Guidant had a duty to defend all the defendants and INA did not have any duty to defend, and that Guidant's policies afforded primary coverage for all defendants, while INA provided excess coverage only. INA moved for summary judgment in the declaratory-judgment action, but the trial court held the motion in abeyance pending a final determination on the merits of the underlying lawsuit. Following that ruling, INA provided defense counsel to Marshall County and the fire department in the Anderson lawsuit. Guidant defended Hingle. INA appealed the trial court's decision on remand. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case back to the trial court. The Court affirmed the trial court's denial of INA's Rule 56(f) motion for continuance and the denial of INA's request for prejudgment interest. The Court found that INA's claims of procedural errors warranting reversal were without merit. While the Court agreed with the trial court's finding that INA was required to contribute to the settlement, the Court reversed the trial court's determination that INA was required to contribute its policy limit. The Court held that Guidant was required to exhaust its $500,000 per-accident limit before INA's insurance was to be applied. View "Indemnity Insurance Company of North America v. Guidant Mutual Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Johnson v. Sysco Food Sevcs.
A 2011 amendment to Section 71-3-51 provides that, "from and after July 1, 2011," decisions of the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission may be appealed directly to the Supreme Court, rather than to the circuit court, as required under the previous version of the statute. On July 1, 2011, the Commission denied Petitioner Joseph Dewayne Johnson’s claim for benefits, so he appealed to the Supreme Court. The ordered the parties to brief two issues: whether Section 71-3-51, as amended was constitutional; and whether the Court had appellate jurisdiction over direct appeals from the Commission. Upon review, the Court concluded that Section 71-3-51 was constitutional, and that the Court had appellate jurisdiction over direct appeals from the Commission.