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Appeals court reinstates injured motorist’s claim against insurer

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A driver’s claim against an insurance company that was dismissed by a trial court was reinstated by the Indiana Court of Appeals on Thursday.

Slavojka Pistalo was injured in a 2003 vehicle collision and filed suit against motorist Iris Wilks, who died in the same year. Pistalo learned of her death while in negotiations with Wilks’ insurer, and Pistalo’s attorney opened an estate in Wilks’ name to pursue the personal injury claim.

Pistalo offered to settle for the $100,000 policy limit, but insurer Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. refused. A jury later awarded found Wilks 100 percent at fault and awarded Pistalo $309,000 from Wilks’ estate. The insurer paid the policy limit, and Pistalo filed further proceedings to recover $325,000 – the remaining award plus fees and prejudgment interest. A Lake Superior Court – one of three that has been involved in the litigation – granted summary judgment in favor of the insurer.

In Slavojka Pistalo v. Progressive Casualty Insurance Company and The Estate of Iris M. Wilks, Deceased, 45A04-1204-PL-214, the appeals court reversed and remanded.

“By refusing to settle, Progressive placed its insured at risk of incurring a judgment for an amount exceeding the policy limits,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the court. “If bad faith is established, Progressive’s obligation to Pistalo will include not only the stated policy limits, but also the amount of the excess judgment.

“Because the issue of whether Progressive acted in bad faith has not been established in the designated materials as a matter of law, we conclude that summary judgment was inappropriate. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this decision.”
 

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