Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
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The jury in this case was presented with two options: find the tractor driver 100 percent liable for the motorcycle riders’ injuries or not liable at all. Neither party requested a comparative-negligence instruction. And none was given. The jury found the tractor driver liable, but only awarded the motorcycle riders a fraction of their uncontested damages. Both parties filed posttrial motions: the motorcycle riders sought more damages; the tractor driver requested a new trial. The trial court granted a new trial, agreeing with the tractor driver that the jury had rendered a “compromise verdict.” At the second trial, the jury found in favor of the tractor driver. The motorcycle riders appealed, arguing the trial court erred by granting a new trial following the first verdict. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the trial court did not abuse its discretion: the record supported the trial judge’s finding the jury had reached a compromise verdict in the first trial. Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Richards v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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After suffering two work-related injuries, Sheree Cleveland settled her workers’ compensation claims with Advance Auto Parts and its workers’ compensation insurance carrier, Indemnity Insurance Company of North America. The Workers’ Compensation Commission approved the settlement. Approximately one month later, the Employer/Carrier filed a Form B-31 indicating the last payment had been made. More than a year after that, Cleveland filed a motion asserting that the Employer/Carrier had not paid all compensation due under the settlement and that two medical bills remained outstanding. The Commission found that, because a one-year statute of limitations had expired, it lacked jurisdiction to enforce its order approving the settlement agreement. Cleveland appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed, questioning whether the one-year statute of limitations applied to the claim. But instead of answering that question, the Court of Appeals found that the Employer/Carrier had been estopped from asserting a statute of limitations defense because it had agreed to pay the outstanding bills and had represented to the administrative law judge that it would do so. Further, the Court of Appeals also found Cleveland's contact with the Employer/Carrier within the limitations period tolled the statute of limitations, if, in fact, it applied. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed, but for different reasons than the appellate court. The Supreme Court determined the statute of limitations did not apply to Cleveland's motion for enforcement of the settlement order, therefore, her motion was timely filed. View "Cleveland v. Advance Auto Parts" on Justia Law

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In 2016, an unidentified driver struck a flagpole owned by 100 Renaissance, LLC, causing $2,134 in damage. Renaissance filed a claim with its insurance company, Travelers Property Casualty Company of America. Renaissance sought coverage under its automobile liability-insurance policy, which included uninsured-motorist(UM) coverage. Travelers denied the claim, determining there was no coverage under the UM policy because the flagpole was not a covered "auto." Renaissance's attorney sent an email to Travelers' claims handler, setting forth the Renaissance's legal arguments as to why coverage should be afforded under Mississippi's UM statute. The claims handler forwarded the email to Travelers' in-house counsel. When the claim was still denied, Renaissance filed suit on a bad-faith failure-to-pay theory. Renaissance took the claim handler's deposition, and asked her to explain the reasons Travelers denied the claim. In an effort to resolve the matter, Travelers paid the full amount for damage to the flagpole. Renaissance, however, continued to litigate its bad-faith claim. Travelers moved for summary judgment. Renaissance responded by asking for a continuance to conduct additional discovery. The additional discovery Renaissance claimed it needed was a production of the emails between the claims handler and the in-house counsel. The trial court granted the request for Travelers to produce the emails for in camera review. After that review, the trial court found that “Travelers ha[d] waived the attorney-client privilege as it relates to attorney Jim Harris.” The trial court ordered Travelers to produce the emails and to produce Harris (in-house counsel) for a deposition. Travelers filed a petition for interlocutory appeal, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. The Supreme Court did not disagree with the trial court's determination that the privilege was waived, and affirmed its judgment. View "Travelers Property Casualty Company of America v. 100 Renaissance, LLC" on Justia Law

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After a mother requested life-insurance proceeds for the benefit of her two minor children after the death of the children’s father, the insurance company requested that she provide the appropriate guardianship documentation. The insurance company received the order appointing the mother guardian and providing directions for the issuance of funds. But the insurance company did not issue the funds as instructed by the order, and the mother misappropriated the funds. A guardian ad litem was then appointed by the chancery court for the minor children and eventually sued the insurance company in the Mississippi Circuit Court for negligence and breach of contract. The circuit court granted the insurance company’s motion for summary judgment, holding that because the insurance company was not a party to the guardianship proceeding in chancery court, the insurance company was not subject to liability for an alleged violation of the guardianship order. The Mississippi Supreme Court found, however, that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to the insurance company’s liability and that summary judgment should not have been granted. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a trial on the merits. View "Samson v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America" on Justia Law

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Theresa Driskell, with the help of an insurance agent, submitted applications for a life insurance policy and a disability income rider. When reviewing the application, the insurance company discovered Driskell was ineligible for the disability income rider. So it issued her a life insurance policy that varied from her application: a policy that did not provide disability income. Driskell received this policy and reviewed it. She did not reject or return it. Instead, she accepted the policy and began making premium payments. Nearly three years later, Driskell made a claim with the insurer for disability income. Because the policy did not include a disability income rider, the insurer denied her claim. Driskell sued the insurer, citing her expectation of disability income coverage. The insurer moved for summary judgment, which the trial judge denied. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted the insurer’s interlocutory appeal to decide if summary judgment was wrongly denied. After review, the Court determined it was clear the policy issued to Driskell and accepted by her did not include a disability income rider. Therefore, it reversed the denial of summary judgment and rendered a judgment in the insurer’s favor. View "Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co. v. Driskell" on Justia Law

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In May 2015, the Chickasaw County School District entered into a contract with Sullivan Enterprises, Inc., for window restoration work on the Houlka Attendance Center. In July 2015, during construction, a fire began that completely consumed the attendance center. Liberty Mutual, the school district’s insurer, paid the school district $4.3 million for the damage to the building. Liberty Mutual then filed a subrogation suit against Sullivan Enterprises, Fowlkes Plumbing, LLC, and Quality Heat & Air, Inc. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi found that the waiver of subrogation did not apply to damages to the “non-Work” property, thus Liberty Mutual could proceed in litigation as to “non-Work” property damages. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit allowed an interlocutory appeal and certified a question to the Mississippi Supreme Court regarding whether the subrogation waiver applied to “non-Work” property. The Supreme Court determined that based on the plain meaning of the contract language, the waiver of subrogation applied to both work and non-work property. View "Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Fowlkes Plumbing, L.L.C." on Justia Law

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Maria Thompson filed sued Dennis Holliman and Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company (“Allstate”) alleging that Holliman had negligently operated his motor vehicle while pulling a trailer in a gas-station parking lot, resulting in a collision in which she was injured. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Holliman, and the circuit court entered a judgment consistent with the jury verdict. Aggrieved, Thompson appealed, alleging that the trial court had abused its discretion by excluding her expert witness. Finding no abuse of the trial court's discretion, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed judgment in Holliman's favor. View "Thompson v. Holliman" on Justia Law

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Benjamin Robinson drove his employer’s vehicle into the rear end of a stopped Holmes County garbage truck. The garbage truck was stopped picking up garbage on the side of the highway in dense fog. Robinson sued Holmes County and his uninsured motorist carrier, Brierfield Insurance Company. Robinson claimed Holmes County was negligent in its operation of the garbage truck. Robinson also asserted a breach of contract claim, stating that Brierfield Insurance Company breached the insurance contract by denying him uninsured motorist benefits. The trial court granted summary judgment and found not only that Holmes County was not negligent but also that it was immune under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. The trial court further found that, since Holmes County was not negligent, Brierfield also was not liable as the uninsured motorist insurance provider. Robinson appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed granting summary judgment to Holmes County and Brierfield Insurance Company. View "Robinson v. Holmes County, Mississippi" on Justia Law

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This case arose from Hurricane Katrina insurance litigation. After the hurricane had destroyed many homes, policyholders and insurance companies began litigating whether the hurricane losses were caused by flood damage or wind damage. The distinction determined whether the insurance companies would pay claims on those polices that did not cover flood damage. This case is before the Court on interlocutory appeal. Safeco Insurance Company (Safeco) and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company individually challenged the circuit court’s reassignment of their respective cases and the appointment of a special master. The Mississippi Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion in reassigning judges, but vacated the order appointing the special master, finding an abuse of the trial court’s discretion. “The order itself acknowledged a blind-billing provision was “unusual.” But the Supreme Court found it was more than that: requiring both parties, one of which is the State of Mississippi, to pay an attorney in Louisiana to act as a judge, allowing either side to meet with him ex parte, and not requiring this special master to mention these meetings or even justify or detail his bill far exceeded the discretionary authority to appoint special masters.” View "Safeco Insurance Company of America v. Mississippi, ex rel. Hood" on Justia Law

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James Allen Insurance Brokers (JAIB) and Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London, Subscribing to Certificate No. FRO-100944 (Lloyd’s) petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for interlocutory review of the Simpson County, Mississippi Circuit Court’s order granting partial summary judgment in favor of First Financial Bank (FFB). The trial court held that FFB was entitled to insurance proceeds from a fire loss that occurred at Luther and Freda Feazell’s poultry farm, because JAIB and Lloyd’s failed to comply with Mississippi law requiring notice of cancellation of property insurance. JAIM and Lloyd's claimed the Feazells' premium was not received on time; the effective date of the policy at issue here was reset to the date premium was paid. The Supreme Court determined coverage was effective December 13, 2013, and under the terms of the binder, and FFB having been listed in the binder as a mortgagee/loss payee, triggered Miss. Code Ann. Section 83-5-28(1)’s notification requirements. JAIB and Lloyd’s failed to comply with those statutory notification requirements; therefore, they were liable to FFB for its loss. Accordingly, the Supreme Court determined the trial court correctly granted partial summary judgment in favor of FFB. View "James Allen Insurance Brokers and Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's, London, Subscribing to Certificate NO. FRO-100944 v. First Financial Bank" on Justia Law