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Court rules on estate's claim against insurer

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a judge’s ruling against a California reciprocal insurance exchange in a dispute over whether the insurer would have to pay part of a million dollar judgment.

In Mid-Century Ins. Co. v. Estate of Thomas Lynn Morris, by and through his personal representative, Tommy Lynn Morris, Daemen Sampson, and Dora Robinson, No. 07A01-1106-PL-313, the appellate panel affirmed a judgment by Brown Circuit Judge Judith Stewart granting an estate’s motion to dismiss a complaint involving an auto accident in December 2004.

One of the passengers in the vehicle was Thomas Lynn Morris, whose estate later sued Mid-Century Insurance Company that provided coverage to the driver of the car. The insurance company believed the total $100,000 per occurrence liability limit might be exhausted by the three claimants injured in the accident, and that led to the estate’s lawsuit demanding payment of the policy limit.

The action went to trial and resulted in a jury verdict for the estate in the amount of $1,195,024. Mid-Century in 2010 filed a complaint seeking to not have to pay any portion of the judgment, and the estate filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(6) because the insurer’s complaint was made in bad faith. The trial court granted the estate’s motion and the appellate panel has affirmed.

Mid-Century argued that no question exists that it was seeking a determination of its rights and obligations stemming from the insurance contract in this case. The company contended that it is not seeking a liability determination, but a review of the contract construction after it was breached to determine the obligations.

Analyzing the record in this case, the appellate judges determined that Mid-Century was attempting to preemptively defend itself against a claim of breach of good faith duty. The judges can’t determine declaratory relief is appropriate or that the trial court abused its discretion here.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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