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Man wins partial victory in appeal of insurance dispute

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The lawsuit filed by man who was hit by a car while crossing the street will continue with respect to the driver of the car, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled. The judges affirmed summary judgment in favor of the driver’s insurer.

Kristen Dawn struck Michael Weist with her car, injuring him. Her insurance provider was State Farm Insurance Cos. Several days after the Sept. 2, 2010, accident, State Farm claim representative Barb Easley called Weist and admitted Dawn’s liability and that he was entitled to damages in the form of lost wages, pain and suffering, and payment for medical bills.

For the next two years, Weist underwent treatment for his injuries and spoke with Easley on the matter. She contacted his doctors for medical records. In August, 2012, his case was transferred to Ashanda Dunigan. When Weist called Easley in November 2012, he was transferred to Dunigan, who told him she could not assist him because the two-year statute of limitations had run.

Weist sued, and the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Dawn and State Farm, ruling “There exists no genuine issue of material fact as to whether (Dawn and State Farm) are equitably estopped from asserting the Statute of Limitations as affirmative defenses.”

The Court of Appeals reversed with respect to Dawn, citing a two-part test outlined in Davis v. Shelter Insurance Cos., 957 N.E.2d 995 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012), to determine the availability of equitable estoppel.

“Weist’s allegations, if proven, would fall within the parameters of Davis’s requirement of a promise to settle under the first part of the test, thereby establishing a dispute of material fact,” Senior Judge John Sharpnack wrote in Michael Weist v. Kristen Dawn and State Farm Insurance Companies, 49A02-1306-PL-541.

There are also genuine issues of material fact as to whether State Farm’s conduct on behalf of Dawn induced Weist to delay action.

The judges affirmed summary judgment for State Farm based on the direct action rule, which bars a third party from pursuing a claim based on the actions of an insured directly against an insurer.

 

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  1. Indianapolis Bar Association President John Trimble and I are on the same page, but it is a very large page with plenty of room for others to join us. As my final Res Gestae article will express in more detail in a few days, the Great Recession hastened a fundamental and permanent sea change for the global legal service profession. Every state bar is facing the same existential questions that thrust the medical profession into national healthcare reform debates. The bench, bar, and law schools must comprehensively reconsider how we define the practice of law and what it means to access justice. If the three principals of the legal service profession do not recast the vision of their roles and responsibilities soon, the marketplace will dictate those roles and responsibilities without regard for the public interests that the legal profession professes to serve.

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