Pursuant to the equitable made whole doctrine, where there are limited funds available, an insurer cannot pursue subrogation until the insured has been made whole – i.e., fully compensated – for its injuries. In City of Asbury Park v. Star Ins. Co., No. A-20, 083371, 2020 N.J. LEXIS 746, the Supreme Court of New Jersey (Supreme Court) addressed the question of whether the equitable made whole doctrine applies to first-dollar risk an insured takes on, such as a deductible or self-insured retention (SIR). More specifically, the Supreme Court considered whether the insured, here the City of Asbury Park, was entitled to recover all its $400,000 SIR before the insurer, Star Insurance Company (Insurer) could assert its subrogation rights. The court held that the made whole doctrine does not apply to first-dollar risk allocated to the insured. Continue reading
Arkansas employs the “made whole” doctrine, which requires an insured to be fully compensated for damages (i.e., to be “made whole”) before the insurer is entitled to recover in subrogation. As the Riley court established, an insurer cannot unilaterally determine that its insured has been made whole (in order to establish a right of subrogation). Rather, in Arkansas, an insurer must establish that the insured has been made whole in one of two ways. First, the insurer and insured can reach an agreement that the insured has been made whole. Second, if the insurer and insured disagree on the issue, the insurer can ask a court to make a legal determination that the insured has been made whole. If an insured has been made whole, the insurer is the real party in interest and must file the subrogation action in its own name. However, when both the insured and an insurer have claims against the same tortfeasor (i.e., when there are both uninsured damages and subrogation damages), the insured is the real party in interest. Continue reading
In Muncie v. Wiesemann, 2018 K.Y. LEXIS 257, the Supreme Court of Kentucky considered whether stigma damages in a property casualty case are recoverable in addition to the costs incurred to remediate the actual damage. The court held that stigma damages are recoverable in addition to repair costs, but the total of the stigma damages and repair costs cannot exceed the diminution in the fair market value of the property. The court’s decision establishes that if the repair costs are insufficient to make the plaintiff whole, a recovery for stigma damages up to the amount of the diminution in the market value of the home is appropriate. Continue reading
In Wilson v. Educators Mut. Ins. Ass’n, 2017 UT 69, the Supreme Court of Utah considered whether an insurer had the right to bring a subrogation action in its own name despite the fact that its insured had not yet been made whole. The court held that, although the common law made whole doctrine generally bars an insurer from proceeding in its own name until after the insured has been made whole, the terms of an insured’s insurance policy can change the made whole doctrine. The Wilson case highlights the importance of reviewing the applicable insurance policy, in conjunction with the law of the applicable jurisdiction, to determine an insurer’s subrogation rights. Continue reading
In subrogation actions, the insurer, as subrogee, steps into the shoes of its insured. However, problems can arise when an insured has uninsured losses. In this situation, both the insurer and the insured have a right to file suit against the tortfeasor. The possibility of two different lawsuits raises a number of issues, such as whether: 1) proceeding separately impermissibly splits the cause of action; 2) the insured’s attorney is entitled to attorney’s fees under the common fund doctrine; and 3) the insurer can proceed before the insured is made whole. In light of these issues, subrogating insurers should proceed with caution before filing suit separately from the insured.