Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the superior court granting declaratory judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, holding that the trial justice abused his discretion by granting Plaintiffs' request for declaratory judgment.These consolidated appeals arose from two civil actions in which the trial court granted summary judgment against the Town of Johnston and its finance director. The trial justice determined that certain accounts bearing the names of the respective plaintiffs constituted deferred compensation, declared the accounts to be Plaintiffs' property, and ordered that the associated funds be remitted to Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to establish as a factual matter that they had an agreement with the Town to defer compensation. View "Faella v. Town of Johnston" on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendant following the denial of Plaintiff's request for declaratory judgment and the grant of Defendant's motion for summary judgment, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that Defendant was required to provide him with full insurance coverage and indemnification for his claims in his underlying personal injury lawsuit. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for Defendant as to all of Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on his claims of error. View "Dulong v. Merrimack Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court granting the motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by Defendant in this insurance dispute, holding that the grant of judgment on the pleadings for Defendant was erroneous.The roof at Plaintiffs' home collapsed due to accumulating ice and snow. The property was insured through a policy issued by Defendant. Plaintiffs invoked the appraisal provision of the policy and later brought a second amended complaint alleging that Defendant had breached the terms of the policy by not performing a complete investigation and had acted in bad faith in the handling of their claim. The motion justice granted Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, concluding that Plaintiffs could not maintain an action for breach of contract against Defendant. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below, holding that the allegations, as pled, could support a claim for breach of contract or breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. View "Houle v. Liberty Insurance Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Defendant, Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust, following the grant of Defendant's motion for summary judgment, holding that there was no error.A few months after the Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment with respect to the underlying claims in Shannahan v. Moreau, 202 A.3d 217 (R.I. 2019) (Shannahan I) Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment in Plaintiffs' action in which Plaintiffs asserted that Defendant wrongfully and in bad faith denied their underlying third-party insurance claims. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden for a bad faith action. View "Shannahan v. Rhode Interlocal Risk Management Trust" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court entered in favor of Plaintiff that granted Plaintiff's motion for additur, holding that there was no error.In 2013, Plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident. Because she believed she was not fully compensated for the injuries she sustained from the accident, Plaintiff brought this complaint against Allstate Insurance Company, her insurer, seeking underinsured motorist benefits. The jury reached a verdict in favor of Plaintiff, awarding damages in the amount of $22,890. Plaintiff filed a motion for an additur, which the trial justice granted in the amount of $6,000. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in granting an additur of $6,000. View "Mowry v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting Plaintiffs' claims against Joseph and Lynne Miller and also in favor of the third-party defendant, Assurance Company of America, denying Joseph's third-party claim for indemnification, holding that there was no error.Judgment entered in favor of Plaintiffs and against Joseph and Lynne in the amount of $178,891 and in favor of Assurance on Joseph's third-party claim. Joseph and Lynne appealed, raising three allegations of error. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the first three allegations of error raised on appeal were waived; and (2) the fourth issue was not properly before the Court. View "Boisse v. Miller" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the term "civil action" in Mass. Gen. Laws 27-7-2.2 refers to a judicial proceeding that is commenced by the filing in court of a complaint and all other required documents together with fees.This case involved an accident in which Horace Johnson and Carlton Johnson were seriously injured when Horace was driving. Before any party filed suit, Carlton's counsel sent a letter to Arbella Mutual Insurance Company, which had issued an automobile insurance policy to Horace, demanding a settlement in the amount of the $100,000 policy limit. After Arbella indicated its acceptance of the settlement offer Carlton and his mother (together, Plaintiffs) filed suit. The case was removed to federal district court, which granted summary judgment to Defendants, rejecting Carlton's argument that section 27-7-2.2 applied to the case and rendered Arbella's acceptance of the settlement offer ineffective. On appeal, the First Circuit Court of Appeals certified the instant question to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered that "civil action" in section 27-7-2.2 refers to a judicial proceeding which is commenced by the filing of a complaint and all other required documents together with the fees prescribed by law. View "Johnson v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court denying Defendant's motion to vacate entry of default, holding that the hearing justice did not abuse her discretion in denying Defendant's motion.Plaintiff was injured in a motorcycle accident. Plaintiff brought this complaint against Defendant alleging that he was insured by virtue of his contract with Defendant and that the denial of his uninsured motorist claims was unreasonable and made in bad faith. When Defendant failed timely to answer the complaint, default entered against Defendant. Defendant moved to vacate default, arguing that it had never been Plaintiff's insurer. The hearing justice denied the motion, finding that Defendant had not met the applicable standards to vacate default under Rule 55(c) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant failed to show good cause to excuse its failure to plead or defend. View "Ferris v. Progressive Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting summary judgment to Defendant, Narragansett Bay Insurance Company (NBIC), in this dispute as to whether Plaintiffs, pursuant to their homeowners insurance policy with NBIC, were entitled to receive a subsequent appraisal of the damage to their property as well as additional compensation for damage incurred, holding that the superior court did not err.Plaintiffs' home, which was insured by NBIC, received water damage stemming from the accumulation of snow on their roof. Plaintiffs submitted a claim to NBIC and received, in return, a check for $14,550. After depositing the check, Plaintiffs later filed a complaint alleging that NBIC had failed to abide by the terms of the homeowners insurance policy and seeking damages for the water damage. The superior court entered summary judgment in favor of NBIC. At issue on appeal was wether Plaintiffs, pursuant to their policy, were entitled to receive a subsequent appraisal of the property damage, along with additional compensation for damage incurred. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs' delay in requesting an appraisal was unreasonable, thereby relieving NBIC of its responsibilities under the insurance policy. View "Machado v. Narragansett Bay Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court granting summary judgment in favor of Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, holding that the trial justice did not err in holding that the statute of limitations barred Plaintiff's claim for personal injuries that arose from a fall on the property of Liberty Mutual's insured.In a second complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he slipped and fell at a Pizza Hut restaurant that was owned and operated by Mita Enterprises, LLC. Plaintiff then moved to substitute Liberty Mutual as a defendant. The motion was granted. Thereafter, Liberty Mutual moved to dismiss the amended complaint, arguing that the three-year statute of limitations barred Plaintiff's action. The trial justice agreed and granted summary judgment for Liberty Mutual. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court's judgment, holding that the trial justice erred in holding that the savings statute did not apply to Plaintiff's claim against Liberty Mutual. View "Frazier v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law