In Ybarra v. Greenberg & Sada, P.C., 2018 CO 81, 2018 Colo. LEXIS 828 (Oct. 15, 2018), Francis Ybarra (Ybarra) filed a complaint against the law firm retained by State Farm Auto Insurance Company (State Farm) to pursue subrogation against Ybarra. In his suit, Ybarra alleged that the law firm violated Colorado’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) when it secured a default judgment against Ybarra. The Supreme Court of Colorado, agreeing that State Farm’s subrogation claim was not a transaction giving rise to a debt within the meaning of the FDCPA, held that the trial court properly dismissed Ybarra’s complaint for failure to state a claim. Continue reading
In N.Y. Marine & Gen. Ins. Co. v. Estes Express Lines, Inc., 719 Fed. Appx. 691 (9th Cir. 2018), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Appeals Court) addressed the question of whether an insurer, N.Y. Marine & General Insurance Company (N.Y. Marine), could recover from a cargo carrier under the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 14706, if the insured’s loss claim did not state a specified amount of money. Finding that § 14706 requires that a party filing a cargo loss claim state a specified or determinable amount of money, the Appeals Court affirmed the district court’s holding that neither the carrier, Estes Express Lines, Inc. (Estes) nor the broker, Exfreight Zeta, Inc. (Zeta), was liable to N.Y. Marine. Continue reading
In Indemnity Ins. Co. of N. Am. v. Agility Logistics Corp., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104179 (S.D.N.Y.), the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York considered the “novel question” of whether the Montreal Convention allows recovery of inspection costs when there is no physical damage to the cargo at issue. Although acknowledging that its holding was, arguably, absurd, the court held that, based on the plain language of Article 18 of the Montreal Convention, the subrogating insurer could not recover the inspection costs its insured incurred. Continue reading
In recent months, the Northern District of Mississippi has grappled with how to interpret waivers of subrogation in American Institute of Architects (AIA) construction industry contracts and, specifically, how they apply to work versus non-work property. The distinction between work and non-work property has been commonly litigated and remains a hotly debated topic when handling subrogation claims involving construction defects. Continue reading
On June 19, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided Whitmoyer v. WCAB (Mountain Country Meats), No. 52 MAP 2017, 2018 Pa. Lexis 2995. The decision reversed longstanding Pennsylvania law and the Commonwealth Court’s decision. The net result of this decision: an insurer can no longer assert a future credit on projected medical benefit payments when settling a third-party case. However, insurers may continue to assert a future credit on indemnity payments. Continue reading
In Amica Mutual Insurance Company v. Muldowney, 328 Conn. 428 (2018), the Connecticut Supreme Court considered whether a landlord’s insurance carrier could subrogate against the landlord’s tenants for property damage when the lease did not specifically authorize subrogation. The court held that, while subrogation was not expressly allowed, the language in the lease requiring the tenants to have liability insurance and holding them liable for damage was sufficient to overcome Connecticut’s common law presumption that a landlord’s carrier cannot subrogate against a tenant. This case emphasizes the importance of analyzing every aspect of a lease when determining the true intent of the parties with respect to subrogation. 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
There has been a growing trend among states to enact statutes that impose specific notice requirements when bringing claims against construction professionals. These notice requirements may apply to the subrogated carrier bringing a claim against a construction professional for certain types of damages. Failure to comply with the notice requirements can result in a dismissal of the subrogation action. Accordingly, caution must be exercised when notifying construction professionals of certain claims, and not just claims for construction defects.
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.