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COA: Parties must arbitrate dispute over insurance coverage

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found a trial court erred when it failed to enforce an arbitration provision of an insurance policy issued by Pekin Insurance Co. and ordered a couple’s lawsuit against their insurer stayed until arbitration is complete.

Carol and Jose Hanquiers sued Joseph Hall and Pekin Insurance Co. seeking damages from Hall stemming from an auto collision that injured Carol Hanquiers severely. The Hanquiers also sought underinsured motorist benefits from Pekin.

Pekin sought to arbitrate the dispute for underinsured motorist benefits based on a provision of the policy that says, “either party may make a written demand for arbitration” if the insurer and the insured don’t agree whether the insured can recover those damages. Pekin requested a stay pending arbitration.

The trial court denied Pekin’s requests, leading to this appeal.

In Pekin Insurance Company v. Jose and Carol Hanquier and Joseph Hall, 55A04-1208-CT-401, Pekin argued that the policy provides arbitration is mandatory when requested by either party; the Hanquiers took the position that the word “may” makes arbitration permissive and not mandatory.

“Under the policy, either Pekin or the insured ‘may’ make a demand for arbitration, but neither is required to make such a written demand. However, once either party makes a written demand for arbitration, arbitration becomes mandatory,” Judge James Kirsch wrote. He pointed to the use of “will” later in the section regarding arbitrator selection and coverage of costs.

The trial court should have enforced the arbitration provision as required by Indiana Code 34-57-2-3(a), the judges held, as well as granted the stay pending arbitration. The case is remanded for further proceedings.

 

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  1. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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