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Insurer needs notice of claim to defend it

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An insurer can't defend a claim of which it has no knowledge and its duty to defend doesn't begin until it receives basic notice information to allow it to defend a claim, ruled the Indiana Supreme Court. The high court affirmed today summary judgment in favor of an insurer on the question of when its duty to defend began in an environmental claim filed by a policy holder because the duty to defend didn't begin until the policy holder complied with the policy's notice requirement.

The question in Dreaded Inc. v. St. Paul Guardian Insurance Co., et al., No. 49S02-0805-CV-244, is whether St. Paul Guardian Insurance was liable for environmental damage claims against Dreaded Inc. that it was unaware of for more than three years. Dreaded received notice from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management requiring it to investigate contamination at a former business site. Dreaded notified St. Paul of the IDEM claim 3 ½ years later and asked St. Paul to take up its defense and reimburse the company for defense costs incurred up to that point. St. Paul agreed to defend Dreaded beginning at the point it received notice, but not for the 3 ½ years prior to receiving notice. Dreaded filed suit seeking declaratory relief establishing St. Paul's duty to fully defend and indemnify against the IDEM action and damages from the breach of contract of St. Paul's duty to defend. St. Paul countered it required prompt notice of damage claims and it wasn't liable for payments made without its consent. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment in favor of St. Paul.

Dreaded argued on appeal it's entitled to recover its pre-notice defense costs unless St. Paul can prove it was prejudiced by the company's late notice and St. Paul failed to present evidence showing actual prejudice. However, the facts of this case will result in the same outcome regardless of whether St. Paul has to show it was prejudiced, wrote Justice Brent Dickson. Dreaded's claim for damages is predicated solely on its contention St. Paul breached its duty to defend them against a claim or suit for injury or damage covered by their policy.

But an insurer can't defend a claim if it doesn't know about, and until it receives the basic information needed to allow it to defend a claim, the insurer can't be held accountable for breaching this duty, wrote the justice. St. Paul's duty to defend didn't arise until Dreaded complied with the policy's notice requirement, so the insurer is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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