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Injured bus driver entitled to $25,000 under his insurance policy

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The Indiana Supreme Court Thursday held that a man can recover the remaining $25,000 available to him under his underinsured motorist policy because he did not receive the full statutory minimum of $50,000 from the tortfeasor’s insurer.

Kathleen Wagner, an underinsured motorist, collided with an Indianapolis city bus driven by Howard Justice. He received a net compensation of nearly $72,000 in workers’ compensation from IndyGo’s insurer. He also received $25,000 from Wagner’s insurer.

Since his underinsured motorist policy with American Family Mutual Insurance Co. provided coverage up to $50,000 per person. When his insurer denied the claim, he sued for the $25,000. American Family claimed Justice wasn’t entitled to recover under the policy because the nearly $72,000 he received in workers’ compensation benefits operated as a “setoff” against the $50,000 policy limit, reducing the insurer’s liability to zero. The trial court granted American Family’s motion for summary judgment.

The Supreme Court found that the language unambiguously provides for a setoff against the policy limit, not against his total damages as Justice argued. As such, the policy limit is reduced to zero when factoring in the workers’ compensation and disability benefits, Justice Mark Massa wrote in Howard Justice v. American Family Insurance Company, 49S02-1303-PL-221.

But, the setoff provision contravenes Indiana Code 37-7-5-2, the justices held, so Justice is entitled to the remaining $25,000 available under his policy. The uninsured/underinsured motorist statute requires limits of not less than $50,000, and the statute is a mandatory, full-recovery remedial statute.

If Wagner had carried the required amount of liability insurance, Justice would have received $50,000, and the purpose of the statute is to put him in that position. Any policy provision to the contrary is unlawful and unenforceable, Massa wrote.

The justices remanded for further proceedings.

Chief Justice Brent Dickson concurred in part, but wrote that he believes the workers’ compensation setoff provision cannot apply to reduce benefits payable under the underinsured motorist policy because the policy expressly excludes coverage of injuries eligible for workers’ compensation.

 

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  1. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  2. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  3. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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