Justia Missouri Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Insurance Law
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Randy Spalding filed suit against Stewart Title Guaranty Company, alleging breach of contract and vexatious refusal to pay in regard to a title insurance policy. After a jury trial, the circuit court entered an amended judgment in favor of Spalding. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) overruling Stewart Title’s motions for directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict where the title insurance policy was not time barred and where Spalding made a submissible case as to the existence and amount of the damages for the breach of contract; (2) refusing to give Stewart Title’s proposed instruction concerning its statute of limitations defense; (3) admitting evidence from an appraiser in regard to damages sustained from the title defect under the policy; and (4) giving a certain jury instruction regarding the measure of damages. View "Spalding v. Stewart Title Guaranty Co." on Justia Law

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Linda Nunley was killed while working for a charcoal manufacturer. Plaintiffs, Nunley’s three children and her mother, obtained a judgment for wrongful death against Junior Flowers, the company’s sole owner, director, and executive officer. Flowers requested a defense from his insurer (ILM), but ILM refused to defend Flowers. Flowers subsequently assigned his insurance claims to Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs sued ILM for breach of duties to defend and indemnify under commercial general liability (CGL) and umbrella policies. The circuit court granted summary judgment for ILM after applying the policies’ employees exclusions, which prevented coverage for work-related injuries to employees of the insured. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the policies barred Plaintiffs’ claims through unambiguous language that excluded liability to employees. View "Piatt v. Ind. Lumbermen's Mutual Ins. Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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Client retained Attorney to handle various legal claims pertaining to the management of a trust. Attorney later came to represent Client and his wife in matters of their own estate planning and administration. Upon Attorney’s advice, Client made loans to both the Attorney’s law firm and to a business from which Attorney received a commission for the referral. Attorney did not make a written disclosure or advise Client to seek independent legal advice regarding these transactions. The loans were never repaid. Client filed a malpractice action against Attorney for breach of fiduciary duty. Judgment was entered in favor of Client. Client subsequently filed an equitable garnishment action against Attorney’s malpractice insurer (Insurer) seeking to recover the judgment under the policy. The trial court granted summary judgment for Insurer, concluding that coverage was excluded under the policy’s “legal representative of investors” exclusionary clause. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the facts of this case, the trial court was correct in holding that the exclusionary clause unambiguously excluded coverage for Attorney’s injurious acts and omissions. View "Taylor v. Bar Plan Mut. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Barbara Hiles purchased two American Family Mutual Insurance policies on two vehicles she owned, a Nissan and a Ford. While driving her Nissan, Hiles was involved in a motor vehicle accident that injured Adam Dutton. Dutton sued Hiles and made a settlement demand of $50,000, which was the combined policy limits of the Nissan policy added to what Dutton claimed were the minimum policy limits required under the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL) for the Ford policy. Dutton, Hiles, and American Family entered into a settlement under which Dutton received $25,000 under the Nissan policy and was assigned Hiles’ right to sue American Family for issues arising from the Ford policy. Dutton then filed a declaratory judgment action against American Family seeking a determination whether the Ford policy provided $25,000 additional coverage for his injuries. The trial court entered judgment for American Family. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Ford policy’s plain language did not require American Family to provide coverage for the accident, and the MVFRL did not require American Family to pay the statutory minimum of $25,000 of liability coverage on the Ford policy because the Nissan was owned by the insured but not designated in the Ford policy. View "Dutton vs. American Family Mut. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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When Wells Trucking, Inc.’s employee was involved in an automobile accident that resulted in the death of another motorist, Wells Trucking had a primary insurance policy with United Fire & Casualty Company and an excess insurance policy with Scottsdale Insurance Company. After the decedent’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Wells Trucking, Wells Trucking and Scottsdale filed suit against United Fire for bad faith refusal to settle within its policy limits. The trial court granted summary judgment for United Fire, concluding (1) an excess insurer cannot recover from a primary insurer under a claim of bad faith refusal to settle, and (2) bad faith refusal to settle could not be proven because United Fire ultimately settled the claim for its policy limits and Wells Trucking did not suffer an excess judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) an insurer’s ultimate settlement for its policy limits does not negate the insurer’s earlier bad faith refusal to settle, and an excess judgment is not essential to a bad faith refusal to settle action; and (2) United Fire was not entitled to judgment against either Wells Trucking or Scottsdale. View "Scottsdale Ins. Co. vs. Addison Ins. Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The widow of a man killed in an automobile accident with an uninsured motorist (UM) sued her and her husband’s automobile liability insurance carrier seeking UM coverage for her husband’s wrongful death. The trial court granted summary judgment for the insurer, ruling that the insurer’s liability was limited to an “owned-vehicle” partial exclusion in the couple’s policies that limited coverage when the insured was injured while occupying a vehicle owned by the insured but not covered by the policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, because the partial exclusion was clear and unambiguous, the trial court did not err in finding that the partial exclusion limited the insurer’s liability in this case. View "Floyd-Tunnell v. Shelter Mut. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Franklin Quick Cash, LLC, a payday and title lending company, was sued for wrongfully repossessing a vehicle. Franklin had a commercial general liability insurance policy with Continental Western Insurance Co. that covered liability for accidents but precluded coverage of liability for property damage “expected or intended” by the insured. Continental Western refused to provide a defense on the grounds that Franklin’s actions leading to the suit were intentional. Franklin sued Continental Western for wrongful refusal to defend. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Franklin. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Continental Western did not have a duty to defend because Franklin intended to repossess the vehicle, and therefore, there was no potential for coverage at the outset of the underlying lawsuit. View "Allen vs. Continental W. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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A class of Plaintiffs brought suit against Insured, a hotel proprietor, alleging that Insured violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The class and Insured subsequently reached a settlement. The class then filed a garnishment action against Insurer. Insurer sought a declaratory judgment that its policy with Insured did not provide coverage because the policy did not cover damages awarded related to the TCPA. The trial found (1) Insurer owed Insured a duty to defend in the class actions because the class's claims were covered under the policy; and (2) Insurer had a duty to indemnify Insured for the full settlement plus interest. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court correctly determined that Insurer wrongly refused to defend Insured under its policy coverage; (2) Insurer was not entitled to a reassessment of the reasonableness of the settlement; and (3) policy limits did not bar Insurer's indemnification of the settlement.View "Columbia Cas. Co. v. HIAR Holding, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident. Group Health Plan, Inc. (GHP) paid Plaintiff’s medical bills. Plaintiff subsequently recovered a personal injury settlement from the tortfeasor. GHP, through its agent, ACS Recovery Services, Inc. (ACS), asserted a lien against Plaintiff’s settlement, seeking reimbursement or subrogation for its payment of Plaintiff’s medical bills. Plaintiff filed a class action petition against GHP asserting several claims based on the premise that Missouri law does not permit the subrogation of tort claims. ACS intervened. The trial court entered summary judgment for GHP and ACS, concluding that the Federal Employee Health Benefits Act (FEHBA) preempts Missouri’s anti-subrogation law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that FEHBA does not preempt Missouri law barring subrogation of personal injury claims. Remanded. View "Nevils v. Group Health Plan, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff's young son was injured by an uninsured motorist while he was a passenger in his daycare provider's van. Plaintiff filed a petition on behalf of her son against the daycare provider's insurance company, Shelter Mutual, alleging that her child was an "insured" under the uninsured motorist provisions of the policy. The policy defined "insured" to include owners, operators, and other users who exercise physical control of the right of control of the vehicle. The trial court granted summary judgment to Shelter. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the uninsured motorist statute requires coverage of all passengers within the definition of "user." The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's child was not an insured because (1) Plaintiff's child was not included in the definition of "insured" under the policy itself; (2) the financial responsibility law implies coverage as a matter of law in a policy for owners, operators and users to the extent that liability may be imposed on them under Missouri law for damages arising out of such ownership, operation, or use; and (3) Plaintiff's child did not come within this scope of coverage. View "Steele v. Shelter Mut. Ins. Co." on Justia Law