Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Mid-Century Insurance Company and dismissing Christina Blanchard's bad-faith complaint, holding that the circuit court properly granted summary judgment for Mid-Century. In her complaint, Blanchard alleged that Mid-Century pursued a "baseless and meritless appeal" from a decision of the South Dakota Department of Labor awarding Blanchard workers' compensation benefits. On appeal, Blanchard argued, among other things, that the circuit court erred in excluding evidence under the litigation conduct rule. The Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court's exclusion of the evidence under the litigation conduct rule was determinative of the appeal, and therefore it was unnecessary to discuss Blanchard's other claims of error, holding that the circuit court properly excluded the evidence and properly granted summary judgment based upon the other undisputed facts in the record. View "Blanchard v. Mid-Century Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order denying State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company's motion for a new trial after a jury returned a general verdict in favor of Giyo Miranda and denying State Farm's request for subrogation recovery against Miranda, holding that State Farm was not prejudiced by the court's instructions to the jury on the sudden emergency doctrine. Giyo Miranda was involved in a head-on collision with another vehicle driven by Loyd Nielson after Miranda lost control of his vehicle. State Farm, Nielson's insurer, pursued subrogation recovery against Miranda, but the jury returned a general verdict in favor of Miranda. State Farm filed a motion for a new trial, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that State Farm failed to establish any prejudice from the circuit court's instructions and that the court was unable to exercise meaningful appellate review on the merits of State Farm's claims. View "State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Miranda" on Justia Law

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In this declaratory relief proceeding, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's denial of State Farm's motion for summary judgment and entered a judgment in favor of LeRoy James on his complaint alleging that State Farm had no right to reimbursement or subrogation for paying James's medical expenses under his policy, holding that State Farm had no contractual right to reimbursement for the $5,000 paid to James for medical expenses under the policy. State Farm insured both James and Melissa Rivers, who rear-ended James and caused him personal injury. State Farm paid a portion of James's medical expenses under his policy and then, acting on behalf of Rivers, settled with James. Once James released Rivers from liability, State Farm demanded that James use his settlement proceeds to reimburse State Farm for paying his medical expenses. James then brought this action. The circuit court entered a judgment in favor of James. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the text of the reimbursement provision of the policy was ambiguous, and therefore, State Farm had no contractual right to reimbursement from James. View "James v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding in favor of Plaintiff in this declaratory judgment action seeking underinsured motorist benefits under two insurance policies with Defendant, holding that the policy language was ambiguous and that underinsured motorist coverage applied. Plaintiff, special administrator of the Estate of Nehemiah Larimer, brought this action following Nehemiah's death in an accident. Defendant denied coverage pursuant to an "owned but not insured" exclusion in the underinsured motorist benefits endorsement. The circuit court, finding the language of the policy ambiguous, granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the language of the underinsured motorist endorsement was ambiguous, and therefore, the interpretation most favorable to the insured must be adopted. View "Larimer v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court granting Plaintiffs’ motion to compel certain discovery and Plaintiffs’ request for attorney fees, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in granting the motion to compel and that the award of attorney fees was unsupported by the record and the requirements of S.D. Codified Laws 15-6-37(a)(4)(A). Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Defendant, alleging failure to pay underinsured motorist benefits. After Plaintiffs served written discovery requests on Defendant and Defendant did not respond, Plaintiffs filed a motion to compel. The circuit court granted the motion in its entirety, concluding that Defendant had intentionally not responded to requests related to a bad faith cause of action. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) in granting the motion to compel, the circuit court failed to consider Defendant’s arguments that Plaintiffs had not attempted to meet and confer in good faith regarding the scope of discovery, as required by statute; and (2) having failed to consider whether Plaintiffs made a good faith effort to meet and confer when Defendant asserted as such, the circuit court abused its discretion in awarding attorney fees. View "Krueger v. Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of Protective Life Insurance Company on Plaintiff’s complaint alleging breach of contract and bad faith, holding that there were no genuine issues of material fact indicating that Protective breached its contract with Plaintiff. Specifically, the Court held (1) Plaintiff’s claim that Protective breached the implied contractual duty of good faith and fair dealing was reviewable; (2) the circuit court did not err when it determined that Protective did not breach the implied contractual duty of good faith and fair dealing; and (3) the circuit court did not err in ruling that Protective did not commit bad faith in handling Plaintiff’s claims. View "Zochert v. Protective Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s grant of Progressive Northern Insurance Company’s renewed motion for summary judgment on Nicole Harvieux’s claims for bad faith and barratry. Harvieux filed an action under her uninsured motorist insurance coverage (UM) with Progressive for injuries she suffered in a car accident and also filed claims of bad faith and barratry against Progressive. The UM claim was bifurcated from the other claims. Following a trial, the circuit court entered judgment on the UM claim. Thereafter, the circuit court granted Progressive’s motion for summary judgment on the bad faith and barratry claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly granted summary judgment on the bad faith and barratry claims and did not err in denying Harvieux’s application for taxation of costs. View "Harvieux v. Progressive Northern Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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S.D. Codified Laws 58-11-9.4, which requires underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage in motor vehicle liability policies of insurance, does not limit UIM coverage to primary insurance policies and contemplates additional UIM coverage. Therefore, umbrella policies that include UIM coverage are subject to the same public policy prohibition invalidating an exception from coverage for accidents involving government owned vehicles. Plaintiffs purchased a motor vehicle liability policy from one insurer and a personal liability umbrella policy from a separate but related insurer. Both policies provided UIM coverage but both excluded coverage for accounts caused by government vehicles. When one of the plaintiffs was injured in an accident involving a government vehicle, Plaintiffs filed this declaratory action to determine the enforceability of the government vehicle exclusion in both policies. The circuit court determined that the exclusion was not enforceable in the motor vehicle liability policy but was enforceable in the umbrella policy. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in upholding the government vehicle exclusion in the umbrella policy. View "Streff v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order granting summary judgment for TSP, Inc. and remanded for entry of summary judgment in favor of Western National Mutual Insurance Co. Western National insured BHI Inc. under a commercial general liability (CGL) policy. This dispute arose after the land surveyor hired for a project in which BHI served as the general contractor and TSP served as the architect made a surveying error. To compensate for the error, BHI and TSP agreed to provide the funds to complete the project. TSP, however, paid the entire amount and subsequently sued BHI for damages. Western National refused to provide a defense, and after BHI and TSP settled the case, BHI agreed that TSP could pursue any potential remedy against Western National that BHI might have under the CGL policy. Western National then brought a declaratory judgment action against TSP seeking a judgment that the CGL did not provide coverage for TSP’s claims. The circuit court granted summary judgment for TSP. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a “designated professional services endorsement” in the policy excluded all potential coverage for any property damage caused by the land-surveying error. View "Western National Mutual Insurance Co. v. TSP, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this insurance coverage dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the denial of summary judgment in favor of Insurer but reversed the denial of summary judgment in favor of General Contractor. Homeowners sued General Contractor and Subcontractor for damages to their home. General Contractor, which was insured under a commercial general liability policy (CGL), requested defense and indemnification from Insurer. Insurer defended General Contractor under a reservation of rights. Insurer then filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a judgment that the CGL policy did not provide coverage for General Contractor in the underlying case. General Contractor and Insurer filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The circuit court denied the motions on the ground that a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding the foreseeability of Homeowners’ damages. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment denying General Contractor’s motion and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the CGL policy required Insurer to defend General Contractor against Homeowners’ suit for damages and that factual questions regarding foreseeability were not relevant to the existence of coverage under the policy. View "Owners Insurance Co. v. Tibke Construction, Inc." on Justia Law