Justia Insurance Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Missouri
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The Supreme Court issued a permanent writ in prohibition directing Respondent, the Honorable Brian H. May, to vacate his orders in the case entered after Insurer filed its application for change of judge and to sustain the application for change of judge, holding that Insurer was entitled to the writ.In the underlying wrongful death suit Insurer filed a motion to intervene and stay proceedings while its contractual obligation to provide coverage was determined in a pending declaratory judgment action. Judge David Lee Vincent sustained the motion to intervene but overruled the motion to stay the proceedings. Thereafter, Judge Vincent entered an order of recusal, and the case was reassigned to Respondent. Insurer then filed this petition for writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court issued the writ and directed Respondent to vacate his order overruling Insurer's application for change of judge and the order sustaining a motion to quash Insurer's notice of deposition, holding that Insurer was entitled to a change of judge. View "State ex rel. COUNTRY Mutual Insurance Co. v. Honorable Brian H. May" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC) finding that David and Gale Collison were not entitled to a sales tax credit following their purchase of a vehicle to replace another vehicle declared a casualty loss by their insurance company, holding that the Collisons could not prevail in this matter.In denying the requested sales tax credit the AHC found that a revocable trust, not the Collisons, owned the new vehicle and that the Collisions, and not the revocable trust, owned the replaced vehicle. On appeal, the Collisons argued that they and the revocable trust were the same owner of the separate vehicles and the same entity for purposes of the sales tax credit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Missouri law clearly considers a trust and the natural persons who create and control the trust to be separate and distinct entities, the Collisons and their revocable trust were legally separate owners. View "Collison v. Director of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed this Court's preliminary writ of prohibition, holding that the issuance of the writ of prohibition sought by Key Insurance Company directing the circuit court to dismiss claims filed against it by Josiah Wright and Phillip Nash for lack of jurisdiction would be inappropriate.After arbitration, Wright filed a lawsuit against Key and Nash seeking to collect insurance proceed's from Nash's child's insurance policy. Nash filed a cross-claim against Key alleging that Key breached its contractual duty to defend him. Key filed a motion to dismiss the claims for lack of jurisdiction. The circuit court overruled the motion. Key then sought a writ of prohibition from the Supreme Court. The Court issued a preliminary writ of prohibition, which it then quashed, holding that where there had been no showing that the circuit court’s usurpation of jurisdiction was "clearly evident" and Nash adequately pleaded facts in his cross-claim that established personal jurisdiction, the issuance of a writ of prohibition would be inappropriate. View "State ex rel. Key Insurance Co. v. Honorable Marco A. Roldan" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from the circuit court's distribution of proceeds from Nicklaus Macke's wrongful death settlement the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court overruling Appellant's motion for a second continuance and in apportioning only a small percent of the wrongful death settlement to Appellant, holding that the circuit court did not err or abuse its discretion.Nicklaus, the son of Pamela Eden and Loren Macke (Macke), suffered fatal injuries in a motor vehicle collision with Austin Patton. Macke negotiated a settlement with Patton's insurance company, which offered to pay its policy limit in satisfaction of Macke's wrongful death claim against Patton. The circuit court apportioned ninety-eight percent of the settlement to Nicklaus' father and two percent to Eden, who played little to no role in Nicklaus' childhood and upbringing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in overruling Appellant's motion for continuance; and (2) the circuit court did not erroneously apply the law in making its apportionment judgment, and the apportionment was not against the weight of the evidence. View "Macke v. Patton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court entering summary judgment in favor Insured in this insurance coverage dispute, holding that the circuit court erred in finding that Insured was entitled to underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage under three insurance policies Insured maintained with Insurer after the death of her daughter (Decedent).When Driver crashed the vehicle she was driving, Decedent, the passenger, sustained fatal injuries. Insured asserted a wrongful death claim against Driver, and Driver settled the claim for her insurance policy's limits. Thereafter, Insured sought UIM coverage from Insurer. Insurer provided UIM coverage pursuant to one of the insurance policies, but Insurer denied UIM coverage under the other two insurance policies. Insured then brought this suit seeking a declaration that UIM coverage existed for Decedent and alleging breach of contract. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Insured. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that under the plain language of two of the policies at issue, Decedent was not an insured entitled to UIM coverage. View "Seaton v. Shelter Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The circuit court erroneously declared the law when it concluded that an employee’s violation of employer’s rules regarding vehicle operation were sufficient to preclude coverage under the omnibus clause of the employer’s insurance policy.James Campbell, an employee of BNSF Railway Company, rear-ended Ricky Lee Griffitts while driving a BNSF company vehicle. Campbell was intoxicated at the time of the collision. Numerous lawsuits ensued. This appeal was from an equitable garnishment action that Griffitts filed against BNSF and its insurer, Old Republic (collectively, Respondents), to collect on an unsatisfied judgment entered against Campbell in an earlier action. In this action, Griffitts claimed that Campbell was a permissive user under the omnibus clause of the insurance policy Old Republic issued to BNSF. The circuit court concluded that Campbell did not have permission to use the company vehicle at the time of the accident due to his violation of BNSF’s policy on the use of alcohol and drugs, and therefore, Campbell was not a permissive user under the omnibus clause. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Campbell had permission to use the company vehicle at the time of the accident and that it did not matter, for purposes of insurance coverage, that Campbell was drunk. View "Griffitts v. Old Republic Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court entering summary judgment in favor of the Doe Run Resources Corporation in this insurance coverage dispute. Doe Run was sued by several minor plaintiffs allegedly injured by toxic pollution released from Doe Run’s smelting facility in Peru. Doe Run sued St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company, its insurer, for reimbursement of defense costs incurred during the litigation of these claims. St. Paul alleged that coverage was barred under the insurance policy’s pollution exclusion. The circuit court found the pollution exclusion ambiguous and unenforceable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the pollution exclusion unambiguously barred coverage and that St. Paul had no duty to defend Doe Run from the lawsuits. View "Doe Run Resources Corp. v. American Guarantee & Liability Insurance" on Justia Law

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Nevils was a federal employee insured through a plan governed by the Federal Employee Health Benefits Act (FEHBA) when she was injured in an automobile accident. Coventry paid her medical expenses and asserted a subrogation lien against a settlement Nevils received from the party responsible for the accident. Nevils filed a class action, arguing Missouri law does not permit subrogation of personal injury claims. Coventry obtained summary judgment, based on FEHBA’s preemption clause: The terms of any contract under this chapter which relate to the nature, provision, or extent of coverage or benefits (including payments with respect to benefits) shall supersede and preempt any State or local law, ... which relates to health insurance, 5 U.S.C. 8902(m)(1). Initially, the Missouri Supreme Court concluded Congress did not manifest a clear intent to preempt state anti-subrogation laws. The Office of Personnel Management subsequently promulgated a rule providing that an insurer’s rights to subrogation and reimbursement under federal employee health benefits contracts “relate to the nature, provision, and extent of coverage or benefits” under FEHBA. On remand, the Missouri Supreme Court held the rule did not alter its analysis. The U.S. Supreme Court then held an insurer’s subrogation rights “relate to . . . payments with respect to benefits” and that FEHBA “manifests the same intent to preempt state law” as other federal preemption statutes despite the different “linguistic formulation” of section 8902(m)(1). In light of that holding, the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. View "Nevils v. Group Health Plan, Inc." on Justia Law

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Owners Insurance Company issued Vicki and Chris Craig a policy with underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Vicki was injured in an accident when her vehicle was struck by a vehicle driven by another motorist. Vicki incurred damages exceeding $300,000. Shelter Insurance, which insured the at-fault motorist, paid the Craigs $50,000. The Craigs then sought from Owners $250,000, the declarations listed UIM limit amount. Owners paid the Craigs $200,000, citing the off-set provisions that allowed them to deduct the amount paid by Shelter. Thereafter, Owners sought a declaratory judgment over the disputed $50,000. The circuit court ruled that the policy was ambiguous and entered summary judgment in favor of the Craigs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the policy unambiguously provides for the $50,000 set-off, that the policy never promised to pay up to the full amount listed in the declarations, and that the declarations did not promise coverage. Remanded. View "Owners Insurance Co. v. Craig" on Justia Law

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Shelter Mutual Insurance Company issued the Swadley family a policy with underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. The policy’s declarations page listed “100,000 Per Person” as the UIM limit. After Angela Swadley was killed in a collision, the Swadleys made a claim to Shelter pursuant to their policy’s UIM coverage. When Shelter denied the claim, the Swadleys filed a petition against Shelter. The circuit court ruled that the policy was ambiguous, entered partial summary judgment in favor of the Swadleys and awarded the Swadleys $100,000. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the policy unambiguously precluded UIM coverage from applying to the Swadleys’ claim. View "Swadley v. Shelter Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law