Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court

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Plaintiff, who was injured while rendering roadside aid as a Good Samaritan, was “occupying” the insured vehicle for purposes of underinsured motorist (UM) coverage and was therefore entitled to recover under the terms of a GEICO Insurance Agency, Inc. policy. Plaintiff was a passenger in a Saab driven by Gregory Hurst when the two witnessed an automobile collision. Plaintiff exited the Saab and was attempting to render assistance when she was struck by another car. Plaintiff settled a claim against the driver of the vehicle that hit her but claimed that she was not fully compensated for her injuries. Consequently, Plaintiff filed a claim with GEICO (Defendant) seeking relief through Hurst’s GEICO policy that insured the Saab. Defendant denied the claim on the ground that Plaintiff was not “occupying” the insured vehicle at the time of her injuries. Plaintiff then filed this action. The trial justice agreed with Defendant, concluding that Plaintiff could not recover UM benefits under the terms of the GEICO policy. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that Plaintiff was entitled to recover under the terms of the policy. View "Hudson v. GEICO Insurance Agency, Inc." on Justia Law

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Some four years after Plaintiff suffered a casualty loss to his property, Plaintiff sued Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company (Defendant), which insured the property pursuant to a policy that it had issued to Plaintiff, alleging breach of contract and bad faith. Defendant moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the claim must fail because Plaintiff did not fully comply with the provisions of the policy and because Plaintiff brought suit more than two years after the date of loss, in contravention of the terms of the insurance contract. The hearing justice granted Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff failed to adhere to the two-year limitation provision, Plaintiff was not entitled to relief. View "Chase v. Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the executrix of the estate of the decedent, brought a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that the estate was entitled to underinsured motorist coverage under a policy issued by Quincy Mutual policy. The motion justice determined that the decedent was “occupying” his owned-but-not-insured motorcycle at the time of his fatal injury, and therefore, an exclusion of the policy applied. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that summary judgment was inappropriate because the decedent was separated from his motorcycle at the time of his death and, therefore, was not occupying the motorcycle as that term was defined in the Quincy Mutual policy. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to what impact caused the decedent’s fatal injuries and the time or distance between them, precluding summary judgment. View "Jackson v. Quincy Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Charles Faber and Karen Faber, filed suit against insurance agencies and related individuals, claiming insurance malpractice. Defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis that Plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the statute of limitations. Plaintiffs responded that the limitation period was tolled because Charles could not reasonably have discovered the alleged insurance malpractice until a date within the limitations period because a reasonable person does not read his or her insurance policies. Summary judgment was entered for Defendants on grounds that Plaintiffs’ claims were time-barred under the three-year limitation period for insurance malpractice claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs’ claims against Defendants were untimely. View "Faber v. McVay" on Justia Law

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Mark Furia was injured while working for Ajax Construction Company. After Furia filed a petition against Ajax in the Workers’ Compensation Court, Ajax petitioned the Workers’ Compensation Court to determine which insurer - Beacon Mutual Insurance Company or Liberty Mutual Insurance Company - was obligated to pay Furia’s claim. The trial judge concluded that Ajax was liable to Furia and that Beacon was primarily liable to Furia. The judge also found that Ajax had dual or overlapping coverage regarding Furia’s claim and, given the overlapping coverage, Liberty must reimburse Beacon for fifty percent of the benefits that Beacon paid to Furia. The Appellate Division vacated the trial judge’s decree and ordered that Beacon be held fully responsible for paying workers’ compensation benefits to Furia and to reimburse Liberty for any benefits paid to beacon by Liberty under the prior decree. The Supreme Court quashed the Appellate Division’s decree, holding that the Appellate Division erred in finding Beacon solely responsible for the payment of Furia’s benefits. View "Ajax Construction Co. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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James Dias suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident. At the time of the accident, Dias and his wife (together, Defendants) were insured under two policies. One policy, which Progressive Northern Insurance Co. underwrote, covered the motorcycle that Defendant was operating when he was injured, and the second policy, underwritten by Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. (Plaintiff), covered Defendants’ automobiles. Dias sought to recover underinsured-motorist benefits from Progressive Casualty, asserting that he was entitled to those benefits under R.I. Gen. Laws 27-7-2.1(i). Plaintiff denied coverage and then filed a declaratory judgment action requesting that the superior court declare that section 27-7-2.1(i) is not applicable because Progressive Northern is a separate and distinct corporation and business entity from Progressive Casualty and, therefore, Plaintiff may disclaim coverage with respect to Dias’ claim. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for Plaintiff. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, with regard to section 27-7-2.1(i), Plaintiff and Progressive Northern are separate and distinct entities, each of which is also distinct from its common sole shareholder, The Progressive Corporation. View "Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. v. Dias" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a pedestrian in a crosswalk when he was struck by a vehicle operated by an uninsured motorist. Plaintiff, who was an insured under his mother’s automobile insurance policy, filed suit against The Commerce Insurance Company seeking uninsured motorist coverage for his injuries. The parties stayed the action pending arbitration pursuant to the terms of the policy. The arbitrator awarded Plaintiff a total of $197,550. Plaintiff filed a motion to confirm the arbitration award. Defendant, in turn, filed a motion to modify/correct the arbitration award to conform with the insurance policy, which provided uninsured-motorist coverage up to a limit of $100,000. The superior court granted Defendant’s motion and entered an order for Plaintiff in the amount of $100,000. The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court, holding that the trial justice erred when he (1) reviewed the arbitrator’s award under a de novo review and supplemented the record with the admission of the insurance policy and the testimony of the arbitrator; and (2) modified the arbitration award because there were no grounds to do so under Rhode Island’s Arbitration Act. Remanded with instructions to issue an order confirming the arbitration award. View "Lemerise v. Commerce Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Mark Van Hoesen was seriously injured when he fell from a deck. Van Hoesen and his wife (together, Plaintiffs) filed an amended complaint alleging negligence against Lloyd’s of London, the insurer of the contractor who constructed the deck. The trial court granted summary judgment for Lloyd’s on the grounds that the insurance policy had been canceled and had expired long before the injuries alleged in Plaintiffs’ complaint occurred. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) from the terms of the contract, for Plaintiffs’ claims to be covered, the “bodily injury” must also have occurred during the policy period; and (2) therefore, the insurance company had no duty to provide coverage for the bodily injury that happened outside the policy period. View "Van Hoesen v. Lloyd’s of London" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Robert Loppi purchased a life insurance policy from United Investors Life Insurance Co. in which he initially named Marilyn Loppi, his wife, as the beneficiary. In 2008, after Marilyn filed for divorce from Robert, Robert applied to United Investors to change the beneficiary on his life insurance policy to his uncle, David Loppi. In 2009, during the course of the divorce proceeding, the family court entered an interlocutory order ordering that Robert’s life insurance policies be cashed in and that the cash surrender value be divided equally between Robert and Marilyn. Before Robert complied with the interlocutory order, Robert died. Thereafter, United Investors declined to pay the life insurance death benefit to either David or Marilyn. David filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment that he alone was entitled to the life insurance policy death benefit. The hearing justice granted David’s petition for declaratory judgment stating that David was entitled to 100 percent of the policy proceeds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Marilyn was not entitled to any portion of the life insurance proceeds at issue. View "Loppi v. United Investors Life Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs purchased a home that a pre-closing inspection revealed had corrosion on the oil heating system in the basement. Although the boiler and oil tank were replaced prior to the sale of the home, the oil feed line buried beneath the concrete floor in the basement was not replaced. After Plaintiffs discovered an oil leak at the feed line, they initiated claims under their homeowners’ insurance policy issued by Defendant. Defendant denied Plaintiffs’ claim. Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Defendant for breach of contract. The trial justice granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, concluding that Plaintiffs’ claim was caused by gradual corrosion of an oil fuel feed line, not by a sudden or accidental loss, and the claim was therefore barred by the clear and unambiguous terms of the policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the undisputed evidence indicated that the damage to Plaintiffs’ property was caused by corrosion, which was not covered by their insurance policy, there were no genuine issues of material fact, and Defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "Nunez v. Merrimack Mut. Fire Ins. Co." on Justia Law