In a subrogation action, one party is substituted to the rights and remedies of another with respect to a lawful claim. The substituted party (the subrogee) is legally able to pursue any right or seek any remedy that would be available to the subrogor regarding that claim. But can a defendant in a subrogation action assert any claim against the subrogee that it would have against the subrogor? In Federated Mut. Inc. Co. v. Kosciusko County, No. 3:20-CV-960, 2021 U.S. Dist. Lexis 88735, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana considered whether a defendant could assert counterclaims against the insureds/subrogors in an action filed in the name of their subrogee. The court held that since the insurerds/subrogors were not a party to the action and the defendant could assert the substance of its counterclaim as a defense, the defendant could not file counterclaims against the insureds/subrogors in the insurer’s subrogation action. Continue reading
The issue of whether a jury will be less inclined to award an insurance company plaintiff – versus an individual person or entity – a favorable verdict is a real one for subrogation professionals facing a potential trial. In states where the laws allow carriers to choose between filing in their own name or in the name of the insured, there are numerous factors attorneys must weigh before finalizing the caption. However, if a jury is allowed to know the extent of the carrier’s involvement, the notion of filing in the name of the insured becomes less appealing. 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 Farmers Mut. Ins. Co. of Mason County v. Stove Builder Int’l, 2019 U.S. Dist. Lexis 46993 (E.D. Ky.), the United States District Court for the Northern Division of the Eastern District of Kentucky, by adopting a Magistrate Judge’s report and recommendations, see Farmers Mut. Ins. Co. v. Stove Builder, Int’l, Inc., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48103 (E.D. Ky. Feb. 11, 2019), considered whether to allow the defendants to file a third-party complaint against the plaintiff’s insureds-subrogors. Finding that the defendants could not pursue contribution claims against the plaintiff’s insureds-subrogors, the court denied the defendant’s motion to file a third-party complaint. 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
When an insurer files a subrogation suit in the insured’s name, questions often arise with respect to whether, by doing so, the insurer has to respond to discovery issued to the insured. In Aquatherm, LLC v. Centimark Corporation, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 85173 (C.D. Utah June 2, 2017), a case in which the insurer at issue made the insured whole, the District Court for the District of Utah answered the question in the negative. Continue reading
For subrogation professionals, it is important to limit the liability exposure of your insured. In cases where the insurer, as subrogee, is proceeding as the plaintiff, this means limiting any direct claims against the insured – whether for contribution or indemnity – to affirmative defenses as opposed to third-party claims. Limiting direct claims against insureds not only keeps captions clean, but avoids strategic maneuvering by the defense that could negatively impact your case. In Ohio, when a defendant tries to pursue direct claims against the insured for contribution or indemnification, practitioners should, consistent with the analysis set forth in Continental Casualty Company v. Equity Indus. Maple Heights, LLC, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54440 (N.D. Ohio, April 10, 2017), argue that defendants can no longer attempt this maneuver and that they are limited to raising affirmative defenses against the plaintiff’s subrogor.
When an insurer, as subrogee of its insured, files suit against a defendant to recover its subrogated payments, the defendant, not infrequently, files a third-party complaint against the insured. Typically, the defendant alleges that, if it is liable, then the insured, based on his or her contributory negligence, is liable to the defendant for contribution. Insureds, however, cannot be liable in tort to themselves.