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Judges affirm reduction of subrogation lien

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The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected State Farm Insurance Company’s argument that its subrogation lien regarding one couple’s policy shouldn’t be reduced based on State Farm’s refusal in a policy held by another family to pay the full amount of the couple’s claim following a car accident.

Joel Genth was driving his father’s car, which was insured with a State Farm policy (Policy 2) when his car hit Thomas Young’s vehicle. Young was injured and received treatment. His medical insurance company Ingenix and his State Farm policy (Policy 1) paid for those treatments.

The Youngs sued Genth and his father for damages and listed two subrogation liens totaling $24,276.61. State Farm, on behalf of the Genths, offered to settle the Youngs’ claims for $17,432. The Youngs then filed a motion to reduce the subrogation liens pursuant to Indiana Code 34-51-2-9. They claimed they should only be responsible for 17.43 percent of the value of each subrogation lien because they were only receiving that percentage of the Genths’ $100,000 policy limit.

Policy 1 agreed to reduce the amount of its lien from $5,000 to $3,250 but not to reduce the lien to 17.43 percent of its value. The trial court ordered State Farm to accept $581 for Policy 1, which is 17.43 percent of the value of the original subrogation lien, minus its pro rata share of attorney fees and litigation expenses.

“In light of the unusual facts before us, i.e., that State Farm issued both Policy One and Policy Two, we decline to adopt State Farm Policy One’s premise that its subrogation lien should not be reduced based on State Farm Policy Two’s refusal to pay the full amount of the Youngs’ claim. The purpose of subrogation is to avoid unjust enrichment,” Judge Meliss May wrote in State Farm Insurance Company v. Thomas A. Young and Mary E. Young, Joel P. Genth and Philip K. Genth, INGENIX 92A05-1205-CT-258.

“State Farm paid under Policy One for some of the Youngs’ damages, and thus was entitled to a subrogation lien. But ‘the one primarily liable,’ Wirth, 950 N.E.2d at 1216, and who ‘in good conscience should have been’ paying, id., was State Farm under Policy Two. Therefore, to allow State Farm to recover the full value of its subrogation lien under Policy One, when State Farm did not pay the full value of Youngs’ claim under Policy Two, would unjustly enrich State Farm.”
 

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