ILNews

Court: Alleged negligence didn't cause injury

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court grant of summary judgment in favor of an insurance agent because it found her alleged negligence was not a cause of injury to the plaintiffs.

At issue in Jerry and Becky French v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company and Jane Hodson, No. 18A02-0612-CV-1161, is whether the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Hodson on the Frenches' claim of negligent advice and procurement of insurance.

The Frenches decided to purchase a manufactured home for their Delaware County plot of land, and Jerry French visited his insurance agent, Hodson, to determine the new homeowner's insurance policy. The value of the home was just less than $80,000.

Hodson asked Jerry questions about the home and entered his answers into the Insurance-to-Value calculator, which estimated the cost of replacement to be approximately $173,000. Jerry signed off on this figure. Hodson never asked if Jerry's home was manufactured or stick-built, nor the purchase price, and Jerry never specified the type of policy he wanted. State Farm had different policies for manufactured and stick-built homes.

Under Coverage A of their policy, the Frenches were covered for up to $173,000 to repair or replace with similar construction. Under Coverage B, their personal property was insured, and in the event of a loss they would be awarded 75 percent of the Coverage A amount.

A fire struck the home several months after the Frenches moved in, and a claim representative inspected the loss and told the Frenches they could use up to the total amount of coverage to rebuild their home. The Frenches decided to construct a stick-built home instead of a manufactured home because they believed an electrical issue in the manufactured home caused the fire. The cost to build the new home was more than their policy limit.

The claim representative informed the Frenches the policy would only cover the purchase of a similar or exact unit to the manufactured home. State Farm offered to pay the Frenches $80,000 under the policy to purchase a replacement manufactured home; they accepted the amount and continued to build a new home. They also were paid approximately $130,000 under their Coverage B policy.

The Frenches filed suit against State Farm and Hodson, alleging State Farm breached the terms of the policy by only offering $80,000 and that Hodson negligently failed to procure insurance for the Frenches as requested. Both parties filed for summary judgment, in which the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Hodson, ruling that the insurance policy did cover the risk and that the Frenches actually received $70,000 more in contents payments than what they would have received with the lower dwelling limits, so Hodson cannot be held liable for negligence with respect to the policy limits.

The Court of Appeals upheld the grant of summary judgment, although it had "serious misgivings" as to whether Hodson actually exercised reasonable skill and diligence in obtaining more than $200,000 worth of coverage on a $76,000 manufactured home.

The Frenches did not suffer an injury proximately caused by Hodson's alleged negligence, and in fact received a benefit of more than $70,000 from the error. The Frenches decided to construct a stick-built home that cost more than the value of their manufactured home, so they did not rely on Hodson's conducts knowing there was a coverage dispute when they continued with the construction.

Judge Edward Najam wrote the court expressed no opinion about the ultimate resolution of the Frenches' claim for breach of contract but held that the trial court didn't error in granting summary judgment in favor of Hodson.
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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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