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High court addresses provision for 1st time

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The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the denial of summary judgment for an insurance company, finding the exclusion in the policy for injuries covered by workers’ compensation doesn’t apply.

The high court was asked for the first time to review a provision of the Worker’s Compensation Act. The provision states that anyone contracting for more than $1,000 of work may be liable to the same extent as the contractor for injuries under the Worker’s Compensation Act if the person hiring the contractor doesn’t verify that the contractor has workers’ compensation insurance liability.

Farmers Rick and Katrina Taylor hired Sherlock Contract Painting. One of Sherlock’s employees, Christopher Collis, was injured on the job. He discovered Sherlock didn’t have workers’ compensation benefits, which the Taylors didn’t verify before hiring Sherlock. Collis then sued the Taylors for benefits under Indiana Code Section 22-3-2-14(b).

The Taylors were insured with Everett Cash Mutual Insurance Co. and had a farm personal liability policy for “all risk” coverage. Everett Cash denied coverage for Collis’ accident. The Taylors then sued for breach of contract. The trial judge denied summary judgment for Everett Cash; a split Indiana Court of Appeals reversed.

The Taylors argued Collis’ claim is a premises liability claim, so their policy should cover it. Everett Cash argued Collis’ claim is for workers’ compensation benefits, which are excluded under the policy. It claimed the occurrence under the policy must be an accident, and that the claim arose because of the Taylors’ failure to verify workers’ compensation benefits.

In Everett Cash Mutual Insurance Co. v. Rick and Katrina Taylor, No. 02S03-0909-CV-395, the Supreme Court ruled the claim was a result of an accident, so it was an occurrence as defined by the policy. The justices also found the language in the policy that Everett Cash claims to exclude this coverage to be ambiguous. It’s possible to read the language to mean that if not for I.C. Section 22-3-2-14(b), Collis wouldn’t have asserted the Taylors were responsible for his injuries and so Everett Cash wouldn’t have to pay, wrote Justice Frank Sullivan.

It’s also possible to interpret the exclusion language as to apply to employers who are directly within the application of the Worker’s Compensation Act. Farm or agricultural employees are excluded under the act and the Taylors aren’t required to have workers’ compensation benefits because they own and work a farm.

One could conclude that the exemption only clarifies that the policy provides no coverage in the conventional worker’s compensation context when an employee seeks the benefits payable by an insured under the law.

“It would be beyond the ordinary understanding of the worker’s compensation system to extend the exclusion to the matter-of-first-impression scenario here – where a claim is filed against an insured by an injured worker in the employ of a third party who did not comply with its obligations under the Act,” wrote the justice. “Given that the Taylors could not have even purchased worker’s compensation insurance to protect themselves from claims by Sherlock’s employees, it is hard to imagine them thinking that an exclusion regarding worker’s compensation could preclude them from having protection from a lawsuit by someone injured in an accident on their property.”

The justices held for an insurance policy to exclude such a claim as the one in the instant case, the exclusion must be more explicit than the language used in the Everett Cash policy.
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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