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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. Call it unauthorized law if you must, a regulatory wrong, but it was fraud and theft well beyond that, a seeming crime! "In three specific cases, the hearing officer found that Westerfield did little to no work for her clients but only issued a partial refund or no refund at all." That is theft by deception, folks. "In its decision to suspend Westerfield, the Supreme Court noted that she already had a long disciplinary history dating back to 1996 and had previously been suspended in 2004 and indefinitely suspended in 2005. She was reinstated in 2009 after finally giving the commission a response to the grievance for which she was suspended in 2004." WOW -- was the Indiana Supreme Court complicit in her fraud? Talk about being on notice of a real bad actor .... "Further, the justices noted that during her testimony, Westerfield was “disingenuous and evasive” about her relationship with Tope and attempted to distance herself from him. They also wrote that other aggravating factors existed in Westerfield’s case, such as her lack of remorse." WOW, and yet she only got 18 months on the bench, and if she shows up and cries for them in a year and a half, and pays money to JLAP for group therapy ... back in to ride roughshod over hapless clients (or are they "marks") once again! Aint Hoosier lawyering a great money making adventure!!! Just live for the bucks, even if filthy lucre, and come out a-ok. ME on the other hand??? Lifetime banishment for blowing the whistle on unconstitutional governance. Yes, had I ripped off clients or had ANY disciplinary history for doing that I would have fared better, most likely, as that it would have revealed me motivated by Mammon and not Faith. Check it out if you doubt my reading of this, compare and contrast the above 18 months with my lifetime banishment from court, see appendix for Bar Examiners report which the ISC adopted without substantive review: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS

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