Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court

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The terms of Utah Code 31A-22-305.3 requires that all vehicles covered under the liability provisions of an automobile insurance policy must also be covered under the underinsured motorist provisions of that policy, and with equal coverage limits, unless a named insured waives the coverage by signing an acknowledgment form meeting certain statutory requirements. When Derek Dircks and Michael Riley suffered injuries in a car accident they were in Riley’s personal vehicle on an assignment for their employer, Mid-State Consultants, Inc. Dircks and his wife (together, Plaintiffs) sought underinsured motorist benefits under Mid-State’s commercial insurance policy with Travelers Indemnity Company of America. The policy included liability coverage for persons driving in either a Mid-State fleet vehicle or a vehicle owned by a Mid-State employee when used for Mid-State Business. The policy also included underinsured motorist coverage but purported to limit this coverage to persons driving in Mid-State fleet vehicles. Travelers denied Plaintiffs’ claim, and Plaintiffs filed suit. The federal district court certified to the Supreme Court the question of whether state law requires that all vehicles for which Mid-State had purchased liability coverage be covered to the same extent under Mid-State’s underinsured motorist coverage. The Supreme Court answered the certified question in the affirmative. View "Dircks v. Travelers Indemnity Co. of America" on Justia Law

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In this subrogation action filed by Educators Mutual Insurance Association (EMIA) against a tortfeasor in a personal injury case, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ dismissal for lack of standing. The court of appeals ruled that an insurer may file suit for subrogation only in the name of its insured, and not in its own name. The Supreme Court upheld EMIA’s standing to sue for subrogation in its own name under the terms of the insurance policy where the terms of the insurance policy at issue in this case expressly recognized EMIA’s authority “to pursue its own right of subrogation against a third party” without regard to whether the insured “is made whole by any recovery.” View "Wilson v. Educators Mutual Insurance Ass’n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that, under Utah Code 31A-22-305.3, a underinsured motorist (UIM) insurer must fully compensate its insured within its policy limits but only for damages in excess of what was paid by workers’ compensation so as to avoid an inappropriate double recovery. Danny Rutherford, who was injured when the work van he was driving was hit by another vehicle, sought double recovery from his employer’s workers’ compensation insurer and Truck Insurance Exchange, which provided Rutherford’s employer with underinsured motorist coverage. The district court granted summary judgment for Rutherford. In light of its holding, the Supreme Court reversed. View "Truck Insurance Exchange v. Rutherford" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was the scope of the “covered profession” clause of a professional liability errors and omissions insurance policy issued to Utah County Real Estate, LLC (Prudential) by Houston Casualty Company. While working as a real estate agent for Prudential, Robert Seegmiller engaged in a professional relationship with the plaintiffs in this action (collectively, Investors) on a real estate deal that went sour. The Investors obtained a judgment against Seegmiller for negligence. Rather than execute the judgment against Seegmiller, the Investors settled with him, acquiring any claims he might have against Prudential’s insurer, Houston Casualty. The Investors then brought this action alleging that Houston Casualty breached the policy by failing to defend and indemnify Seegmiller. The district court granted summary judgment for Houston Casualty. The Supreme Court affirmed on the ground that Seegmiller’s conduct in the transaction was not covered by the policy because he was not providing services “for a fee” in the transaction. View "Compton v. Houston Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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Debra Jarvis was driving a bus owned by Lake Shore Motor Coach Lines, Inc. when she experienced a sudden and unforeseeable loss of consciousness. Her loss of consciousness caused the bus to roll over, injuring several passengers. Some of the injured passengers filed separate lawsuits in a Utah court seeking damages. Two of the plaintiffs moved for partial summary judgment, asserting that Lancer Insurance Co., Lake Shore’s insurer, was strictly liable for the passengers’ injuries under Utah Code 31A-22-303(1). The motions were denied. Lancer Insurance filed a separate federal case seeking a declaratory judgment confirming the state district court’s interpretation of Utah Code section 31A-22-303(1), thus reinforcing the conclusion that this provision preserves the common-law “sudden incapacity” defense and requires proof of fault to sustain liability. The federal district court certified two questions to the Supreme Court regarding the proper interpretation of section 31A-22-303(1). The Supreme Court answered (1) section 31A-22-303(1) overrules the common-law doctrine of sudden incapacity in a manner imposing strict liability on a driver (and her insurer); and (2) a driver (and her insurer) is subject to liability only up to the amount of the insurance coverage available under an applicable policy. View "Lancer Insurance Co. v. Lake Shore Motor Coach Lines, Inc." on Justia Law

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Natalie Heslop overdosed on prescription drugs. The next day, Natalie rolled her truck down an embankment. Natalie informed the responding police officer, medical personnel, her family, and an insurance adjuster that the accident had been a suicide attempt. Natalie’s insurance policy provided that it would exclude coverage to any injured person “if the person’s conduct contributed to his injury…by intentionally causing injury to himself.” Natalie and her husband, Brandon Heslop, attempted to collect from Bear River Mutual Insurance Company under both a personal injury protection claim for Natalie’s personal injuries and a property damage claim for damage to the truck. Bear River denied the claims based on Natalie's admission that she intended to drive down the embankment. The Heslops subsequently filed a complaint against Bear River. The district court granted summary judgment to Bear River as to both the personal injury claim and the property damage claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on the Heslops’ claims. View "Heslop v. Bear River Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was (1) how Utah Code 30-3-5(1)(e) should be interpreted in correlation with Utah Code 75-2-804, and (2) the proper interpretation of “express terms” in section 75-2-804(2). Tyler Hertzske and Linda Snyder each claimed sole entitlement to the death benefits of a life insurance policy held by Edward Hertzske, deceased. The district court granted summary judgment to Tyler, concluding that Tyler was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In so holding, the judge concluded (1) where section 30-3-5(1)(e) was not considered or included in the divorce proceedings, it did not apply, and (2) the Policy did not contain “express terms” that would except it from revocation under section 75-2-804(2). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 75-2-804(2) creates a rebuttable presumption that a beneficiary designation in a life insurance policy is revoked upon divorce; (2) section 30-3-5(1)(e) does not apply in this instance, and, rather, section 75-2-804 governs; (3) a life insurance policy must contain “express terms” referring to divorce in order for the beneficiary designation of a former spouse to survive revocation by section 75-2-804(2); and (4) the Policy did not contain “express terms” that would except it from revocation under section 75-2-804(2). View "Snyder v. Hertzske" on Justia Law

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Barbara Bagley and Vom Baur, her common law husband, were traveling in a Range Rover when Bagley lost control of the vehicle and flipped it. Ten days later, Baur died from the injuries he sustained in the accident. Bagley, in her capacity as sole heir and personal representative of her deceased husband’s estate, brought suit against herself as an individual, alleging that she negligently caused her husband’s death. Bagley, who sued under Utah’s wrongful death and survival action statutes, brought suit to compel State Farm Insurance Company, with whom she maintained a motor vehicle insurance policy, to indemnify her. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluded that a person cannot simultaneously act as plaintiff and defendant in a wrongful death or survival action suit. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals did not err when it concluded that the wrongful death and survival action statutes permit a person acting in the legal capacity of an heir or personal representative to sue herself in an individual capacity for negligently causing a decedent’s death or injury. View "Bagley v. Bagley" on Justia Law

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After Larry Sewell fell into a service pit at Xpress Lube, Sewell filed suit against Xpress Lube. A process server left copies of the summons and complaint with an Xpress Lube employee. Bruce Anderson, the sole proprietor of Xpress Lube, later found the summons and complaint and sent them to his insurance agent, who, in turn, attempted to fax the complaint to Travelers Insurance, Anderson's insurance carrier. Travelers, however, never received the fax. Sewell later filed a motion for default judgment. The district court granted the motion and entered judgment against Xpress Lube. The Supreme Court vacated the default judgment, holding (1) there was no proper service on Xpress Lube because the sole proprietor was not served in this case, and therefore, the default judgment was void for lack of jurisdiction; (2) the district court erred in failing to vacate the default judgment due to mistake, inadvertence, or excusable neglect; and (3) the district court erred when it failed to hold an evidentiary hearing on unliquidated damages. View "Sewell v. Xpress Lube" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was traveling home from work in his personal vehicle when he sustained back injuries in a car accident. Petitioner applied for workers' compensation benefits, but his application was denied under the "going and coming rule," which deems injuries occurring during a work commute outside the course of employment and thus not compensable. Petitioner appealed, arguing that in light of the benefits his employer received through various work-related uses of his vehicle, he was "in the course of employment" during the accident. The labor commission and court of appeals rejected Petitioner's claim that he qualified under the "instrumentality" exception of the going and coming rule. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner fell within the rule and not the exception. View "Jex v. Utah Labor Comm'n" on Justia Law