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Judges send insurance case back to trial court

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of an insurer in a dispute over whether it should pay a claim for underinsured motorist coverage.

American Family Mutual Insurance denied Howard Justice’s claim under his policy for underinsured motorist coverage. Justice, an Indianapolis city bus driver, was injured in an accident with another driver. That driver’s insurer paid the policy limit of $25,000 to Justice. He also was paid more than $77,000 in benefits in workers’ compensation coverage under his employer’s policy.

Justice’s policy limits with American Family were $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident in underinsured motorist coverage.

American Family argued at the trial level that the workers’ compensation setoff provision reduced the limits of the liability policy so that its liability under the policy was zero.

The appellate judges cited Beam v. Wausau, 765 N.E.2d 524, 528 (Ind. 2002), a similar case from the Supreme Court, to support their ruling reversing summary judgment. The justices held the trial court erred by reducing the damages award by the gross amount of workers’ compensation benefits paid. The Supreme Court held that the exclusion called for a reduction of damages by any amount of workers’ compensation benefits received for the same element of damages insured by the policy.

“In this case, the trial court’s order granting summary judgment reflects, without opinion, its agreement with AFI that the setoffs should result in a reduction from the UIM policy limits. Under the rationale of Beam, however, this is incorrect as a matter of law. After a determination of liability and damages, Justice’s damages award should be reduced by the $25,000.00 recovery from Wagner and the percentage of worker’s compensation benefits paid to Justice based upon Wagner’s percentage of comparative fault, up to a maximum of $25,000.00,” wrote Judge James Kirsch.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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