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Split court upholds $3.9 million workplace injury judgment

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Whether a general liability carrier could intervene in a workplace injury lawsuit that awarded a plaintiff $3.9 million is a question that divided the Indiana Court of Appeals, which affirmed the lower court ruling.

Granite State Insurance Company was the carrier for Pulliam Enterprises, where Robert Lodholtz was seriously injured. When he sued, Granite State assigned the matter to a claims administrator who failed to respond to Lodholtz’s claim. The court entered a default judgment on his behalf and later a $3.9 million damages award.

Granite offered to represent Pulliam in an effort to vacate the default judgment and settlement while reserving the right to deny judgment – an offer Pulliam did not accept. Pulliam settled with Lodholtz.

“In a case that brings to mind the admonition, ‘Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it[,]’” we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Granite State leave to intervene,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote in an opinion joined by Chief Judge Margret Robb in Granite State Insurance Company v. Robert Lodholtz and Pulliam Enterprises, Inc., 71A04-1111-CT-635.

The majority held that because Granite State reserved a right to deny coverage in its offer to represent Pulliam, it had an interest that was at best contingent and insufficient to support intervention.

Dissenting Judge John Baker said Granite State had demonstrated an interest sufficient to support intervention. “Its interest is not currently being protected, thus satisfying the requirements of Indiana Trial Rule 24(A)(2).

“I part ways with the majority’s view that Granite State sought to intervene simply ‘because it did not like the results’ when Pulliam and Lodholtz settled,” Baker wrote.

 



 

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