Articles Posted in Insurance Law

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Lamar Ragland appeals the dismissal of his bad-faith claim against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. Ragland sought punitive damages from State Farm based on State Farm's alleged bad-faith failure to pay and related failure to subject his claim for underinsured-motorist ("UIM") benefits to a cognitive review. State Farm moved to dismiss Ragland's claims, because Ragland had filed a separate civil action in 2014 that had not yet been resolved. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed Ragland's claim as being from a nonfinal judgment. View "Ragland v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Three matters consolidated for review resulted from separate automobile accidents between either an Allstate or a GEICO insured with Underinsured-Motorist (UIM) coverage and allegedly underinsured tortfeasors. In each case, it was undisputed that the applicable insurance policy contained a "consent-to-settle" clause requiring the provision of notice to, and the consent of, the affected insurer prior to the insured's settlement of any claims against the alleged underinsured tortfeasors and/or a release of the tortfeasors' liability. After review of the specific facts of each case, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded that because the insurers, in following the express directives of the Court, were deprived of their contractual rights as well as the benefit of the procedures set forth in the controlling case law, the insurers demonstrated a clear legal right to their requested relief. In case no. 1150511 and 1151266, the Court directed the applicable circuit court to vacate its respective orders purporting both to "enforce" the pro tanto settlement agreements against the insurer's consent and to dismiss the tortfeasors. In case no. 1150269, the Court dismissed the petition. View "Ex parte GEICO Indemnity Company." on Justia Law

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The Alabama Supreme Court granted Alfa Mutual Insurance Company's petition for a writ of certiorari with respect to the issue whether University of South Alabama Medical Center Hospital's (USA) hospital lien was impaired and the amount of damages recoverable by USA from Alfa for that impairment. The Court reversed the Court of Civil Appeals insofar as it affirmed the circuit court's ruling that the amount of damages recoverable from Alfa was an amount equal to the entirety of USA's reasonable charges, irrespective of the amount that was otherwise owed by Alfa under the terms of its policy, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Ex parte Alfa Mutual Insurance Company." on Justia Law

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Laura Miller appeals from a summary judgment entered by the Jefferson Circuit Court ("the circuit court") in favor of the City of Birmingham ("the City"), Sandy Roberts, and Alice Crutchfield (collectively, "the City defendants"). Robert Miller, Laura's husband, was employed by the City as a firefighter. Unum Life Insurance Company of America ("Unum") issued a group life and accidental death and dismemberment policy. According to the summary of benefits, the policy included different life-insurance benefits for active employees and for retired employees. Under the policy, as an active employee, the City paid Robert's insurance premiums, thereby entitling him to a life-insurance benefit of $151,000. However, if Robert were to retire, he would be required to pay his life-insurance premiums and would be entitled to only a $50,000 life-insurance benefit. The summary of benefits specified that, in order to be eligible for a waiver of the life-insurance premiums, the insured had to "be disabled through your elimination period," which was nine months. In 2012, Robert was diagnosed with brain cancer and soon became unable to perform the duties of his job. Laura contended once the Millers learned of Robert's condition, they "sought to obtain information about [Mr. Miller's] life insurance benefit and all other benefits that might be available." The Millers did not have a copy of the policy or the summary of benefits at that time. The Millers and Ed Bluemly, Mrs. Miller's brother-in-law, met with Sandy Roberts, the assistant benefit administrator and the pension coordinator for the Jefferson County Personnel Board, and Alice Crutchfield, a personnel technician for the Jefferson County Personnel Board, to learn about the available benefits. The Millers asked for a copy of the policy, and there was a dispute over whether the Crutchfield gave the Millers a copy. The Millers ultimately sued the City for negligence with respect to the policy and collection of the benefits to which Robert was entitled. After review of this matter, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's summary judgment in favor of the City insofar as the circuit court based its summary judgment in favor of the City on the City defendants' argument that the City was entitled to immunity from Laura's claim alleging wanton and reckless misrepresentation. However, the Court reversed the circuit court's summary judgment in favor of the City defendants in all other respects. The Case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Miller v. City of Birmingham et al." on Justia Law

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Warren and Johanna Grimes appealed a declaratory judgment holding that a liability policy issued by Alfa Mutual Insurance Company ("Alfa") did not provide coverage for a user of an automobile who did not have the express permission of the owner or drivers covered by the policy. Teresa Boop added liability coverage and uninsured/underinsured-motorist coverage for a pickup truck to her automobile insurance with Alfa. Boop also added her minor son as a driver under the policy. Amy Arrington was operating the pickup truck when it collided with a vehicle owned and occupied by the Grimeses. Both of the Grimeses suffered personal injuries as a result of the collision. The Grimeses’ insurer, Liberty Mutual, sued Arrington, alleging negligence and wantonness and seeking recovery of damages for the Grimeses' vehicle. Later the Grimeses sued Arrington and Boop, alleging negligence, wantonness, and negligent entrustment, and seeking damages for their personal injuries. Arrington filed answers, arguing that she was a covered person under the terms of Boop's policy with Alfa and that Alfa, therefore, should provide her with a defense in the Grimeses' action and in Liberty Mutual's action. The Supreme Court affirmed, finding that the trial court did not err in its conclusion that the Alfa policy did not provide coverage for a user of a motor vehicle who did not have the express permission of the owner or drivers who were covered. View "Grimes v. Alfa Mutual Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange ("PURE"), a Florida-domiciled insurance exchange, obtained a judgment, entered on a jury verdict, declaring that Peter Grayson was not entitled to coverage under the uninsured-motorist ("UM") portion of an automobile insurance policy under which Grayson's sister, Alice Grayson, was a named insured. The Circuit Court granted Grayson's motion to set aside that judgment on the basis that it was void for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. PURE now appealed. Finding that the trial court had jurisdiction over the matter, the judgment in favor of PURE was not void. The Court therefore reversed the Circuit Court and remanded. View "Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange v. Grayson" on Justia Law

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Defendants April Steele Benton and John Benton and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm"), petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the Bibb Circuit Court to vacate its July 18, 2016, order denying the Bentons' and State Farm's motion to transfer this action from the Bibb Circuit Court to the Shelby Circuit Court and to enter an order granting the motion. In 2014, April Steele Benton, a resident of Bibb County, and Amir Alan Ebrahimi, a resident of Shelby County, were involved in a two-vehicle collision in Shelby County. Following the collision, Ebrahimi was transported from the scene of the accident by Regional Paramedical Services to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center ("UAB"), where he received treatment for his injuries. Ebrahimi filed a complaint in the Bibb Circuit Court against April Steele Benton; John Benton, the owner of the car April was driving; and State Farm, Ebrahimi's underinsured-motorist carrier. The Bentons filed a motion to transfer the action to Shelby County based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The Bentons argued in their motion that Shelby County had a stronger connection to the case because: (1) the accident occurred in Shelby County; (2) the Pelham Police Department, located in Shelby County, investigated the accident; (3) Ebrahimi resided in Calera, located in Shelby County; (4) the first responders, employees of Regional Paramedical Services, were located in Shelby County; (5) Ebrahimi was treated at UAB, which was closer to Shelby County than to Bibb County; and (6) the only connection this action has with Bibb County was the fact that the Bentons, resided there. The Supreme Court found that the trial court should have granted the Bentons' motion for a change of venue, and accordingly, issued the writ of mandamus to direct the trial court to deny the motion and transfer the action to Shelby County. View "Ex parte Benton et al." on Justia Law

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Advanced Specialty Pharmacy LLC, Meds I.V., Inc. (collectively referred to as "Meds I.V."), and several others were sued by individuals asserting various wrongful-death and personal-injury claims. Meds I.V. was insured by Pharmacists Mutual Insurance Company. Pharmacists Mutual filed an interpleader complaint in the action and submitted $4 million to the circuit court, which Pharmacists Mutual alleged was the limits to Meds I.V.'s insurance policies with it, and requested that the circuit court divide the insurance moneys among the claimants. The claimants alleged that the policy limits were $7 million. The parties filed cross-motions for a summary judgment, and the circuit court entered a summary judgment in favor of the claimants. The Supreme Court affirmed the summary judgment insofar as it held that the general aggregate limit applied to limit Pharmacists Mutual's liability to $4 million. However, the Court reversed the circuit court's judgment insofar as it held that the products/completed-work-hazard aggregate limit also applied to expand Pharmacists Mutual's liability by $3 million to $7 million. The case was remanded back to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Pharmacists Mutual Ins. Co. v. Advanced Specialty Pharmacy, LLC" on Justia Law

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John Boman appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the City of Gadsden. Boman worked as a Gadsden police officer from 1965 until he retired in 1991. Following his retirement, Boman elected to pay for retiree health coverage through a group plan offered by Gadsden to retired employees. This retired-employee-benefit plan was also administered by Blue Cross and provided substantially similar benefits to those Boman received as an active employee. In 2000, however, Gadsden elected to join an employee-health-insurance-benefit plan ("the plan") administered by the State Employees' Insurance Board ("the SEIB"). When Boman turned 65 in 2011, he was receiving medical care for congestive heart failure and severe osteoarthritis of the spine. After his 65th birthday, Blue Cross began denying his claims for medical treatment based on the failure to provide Blue Cross with a "record of the Medicare payment." However, Boman had no Medicare credits. Boman was hired before March 31, 1986, and, although Gadsden did begin participation in the Medicare program in 2006, Boman's employee group had not opted to obtain Medicare coverage before Boman retired. Consequently, Boman never paid Medicare taxes and did not claim to have Medicare coverage. The SEIB ultimately determined that the plan was the secondary payer to Medicare. Boman sued Gadsden, asserting that it had broken an agreement, made upon his employment, to provide him with lifetime health benefits upon his retirement. Boman also sued the members of the SEIB charged with administering the plan, challenging the SEIB's interpretation of the plan. Finding no reversible error in the grant of summary judgment to Gadsden, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Boman v. City of Gadsden" on Justia Law

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Kurtrina Smith and Rickey Levins separately initiated actions against defendants the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Inc. ("the AME Church"); James L. Davis, bishop and presiding officer of the AME Church's Ninth Episcopal District (collectively, "the Ninth District"); and Lincoln National Life Insurance Company ("Lincoln National") after Lincoln National denied their respective claims for benefits filed pursuant to a group life-insurance policy Davis had purchased from Lincoln National on behalf of the Ninth District. Smith and Levins alleged the group policy provided coverage for Smith's mother and Levins's father. The defendants moved the trial court hearing each action to compel arbitration pursuant to arbitration provisions that were allegedly part of the group policy and certificates. The trial court denied those motions, and defendants appealed. Finding that the trial court erred in denying the motion, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for arbitration proceedings. View "African Methodist Episcopal Church, Inc. v. Levins" on Justia Law