Justia Wyoming Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Insurance Law
Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County v. Menapace
In this case alleging that Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County was vicariously liable for the acts or omissions of a physician who worked at the hospital as an independent contractor, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court finding that the Hospital waived its immunity by purchasing liability insurance. The Hospital had moved for summary judgment on the ground that the physician was not a Hospital employee, and therefore, the Hospital was immune from liability for his acts or omissions. The district court denied the Hospital’s motion, finding that the Hospital waived its immunity to ostensible agency claims under the insurance exception at Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-39-118(b). The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Hospital’s liability insurance did not provide coverage for liability beyond the liability defined by the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act, and (2) the Hospital’s liability insurance therefore did not extend the Hospital’s liability to include liability for its apparent agents. View "Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County v. Menapace" on Justia Law
Hurst v. Metropolitan Property & Casualty Insurance Co.
Larry Hurst was killed and Sara Hurst was seriously injured while riding their bicycles after a vehicle driven by Hannah Terry struck each of their bicycles. The Hurst filed a claim with their uninsured motorist insurance carrier, Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company (MetLife), which contended that the injuries to the Hursts were the result of one accident, resulting in a maximum of $300,000 in coverage. The Hursts, however, argued that their injuries were the result of two accidents, warranting $600,000 in coverage. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of MetLife, concluding that there was only one accident for purposes of determining the amount of uninsured motorist coverage. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the record was insufficient for a legal conclusion as to whether Terry maintained or regained control of her vehicle during the collisions with the Hursts, and therefore, summary judgment was improperly granted and the matter must be remanded for trial. View "Hurst v. Metropolitan Property & Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Century Surety Co. v. Jim Hipner, LLC
Jim Hipner, LLC (Hipner), a trucking company, obtained an umbrella policy from Century Surety Company (Century) that contained a notice provision stating that the insured will notify Century “as soon as practicable” of an occurrence, offense, or injury. When one of Hipner’s drivers produced a multi-vehicle collision (the accident) that resulted in a serious injury, Century filed suit in federal court seeking a declaratory judgment that it did not have an obligation to defend or indemnify Hipner in connection with any claims relating to the accident because Hipner failed to provide written notice “as soon as practicable.” The district court concluded that Century received timely notice under the policy as a matter of Wyoming law. Century appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit certified a question to the Wyoming Supreme Court regarding the enforceability of the insurance policy notice provision. The Supreme Court answered that, under Wyoming law and regardless of the express language of the insurance policy, an insurer must be prejudiced before being entitled to deny coverage when the insured has failed to give notice “as soon as practicable.” View "Century Surety Co. v. Jim Hipner, LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Insurance Law
N. Fork Land & Cattle, LLLP v. First Am. Title Ins. Co.
First American Title Insurance Company issued title insurance policies to the predecessors of North Fork Land & Cattle, LLLP. When North Fork learned that Bunker Road, which crosses three of North Fork’s properties, was established as a county road, North Fork submitted notices of claims under the title insurance policies, asserting that First American failed to disclose to one of North Fork’s predecessors that Bunker Road burdened the properties and that it was damaged by the Bunker Road encumbrance. First American did not respond to North Fork’s claims, and North Fork filed suit against First American. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of First American, concluding that North Fork did not meet the definition of “insured” under the title insurance policies. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that North Fork is a covered insured under the terms of the title insurance policy. Remanded. View "N. Fork Land & Cattle, LLLP v. First Am. Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Continental W. Ins. Co. v. James Black, JJ Bugs, Ltd.
Keizer Trailer Sales, Inc., which was insured by Continental Western Insurance Company (CWIC), sold three trailers to James Black. The installment purchase agreement stated that Keizer would remain the owner of the trailers under the purchase price was paid in full. Black was subsequently involved in an accident while pulling a Keizer trailer that resulted in one fatality and multiple injuries. Wrongful death and negligence claims were filed against Black and his business. CWIC filed a complaint for declaratory judgment seeking a declaration that the commercial and umbrella policies it issued to Keizer on the trailer involved in the accident did not provide coverage for the claims arising from Black’s accident. The district court ruled against CWIC, concluding that Black was insured under the policies’ omnibus clauses because he was driving a vehicle owned by Keizer with Keizer’s permission. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Keizer retained ownership of the trailers, and because Black’s use of the trailers was with Keizer’s permission, coverage was available under the omnibus clauses of Keizer’s CWIC policies. View "Continental W. Ins. Co. v. James Black, JJ Bugs, Ltd." on Justia Law
Best v. Best
This case concerned a dispute regarding who was entitled to the proceeds of a retirement annuity contract. Plaintiff filed a complaint for declaratory judgment pursuant to the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act claiming that she was entitled to the proceeds. The circuit court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendant. Plaintiff appealed. The district court did not reach the merits of the case, concluding that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction over the dispute because only a district court has jurisdiction over matters brought under the Declaratory Judgments Act, no matter the amount in controversy. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a cause of action seeking declaratory relief can be within the jurisdiction of the circuit court so long as the circuit court has jurisdiction independent of the declaratory relief requested; and (2) in this case, the circuit court had jurisdiction independent of the declaratory relief sought, and therefore, the court had jurisdiction to decide the declaratory judgment claim. View "Best v. Best" on Justia Law
Hirsch v. State ex rel. Wyo. Workers’ Safety & Comp. Div.
In 2004, Appellant fell while working and strained her back. Appellant was awarded worker’s compensation benefits. In 2009, Appellant slipped and fell at work and injured her ankle. In 2010, Appellant sought temporary total disability and medical pay benefits from the Workers Compensation Division, which denied Appellant’s requests. After a contested case hearing, the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) upheld the Division’s denial of Appellant’s request for benefits, concluding Appellant did not meet her burden of proving that she suffered aggravation of a preexisting back condition as a result of a work related injury or that she suffered a second compensable injury. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the OAH did not err by failing to find a causal connection between the 2009 workplace incident and Appellant’s delayed back pain. View "Hirsch v. State ex rel. Wyo. Workers' Safety & Comp. Div." on Justia Law
Lewis Holding Co., Inc. v. Forsberg Engerman Co.
Forsberg Engerman Co., an insurance agency, helped Lewis Holding Co., a trucking business, purchase insurance from Lexington Insurance Co. In 2011, one of Lewis Holding’s trailers was damaged. After Lewis Holding filed an insurance claim, NTA, Inc.’s adjuster examined the trailer and determined that the damage was due to mechanical failure or wear and tear. Lexington denied the insurance claim on the grounds that the damages were not the result of an upset or collision, but rather, the result of improper welding. Lewis Holding subsequently filed suit against Lexington, NTA, and Forsberg. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in granting summary judgment for Defendants where (1) the insurance agreement plainly and unambiguously excluded coverage for damages due to mechanical failure; (2) Forsberg, who was not a party to the insurance contract, could not be held liable under the insurance policy; and (3) Defendants had reasonable bases for denying Lewis Holding’s claim.View "Lewis Holding Co., Inc. v. Forsberg Engerman Co." on Justia Law
Sonnett v. First Am. Title Ins. Co.
Appellants purchased property that was subject to a Master Plan that restricted the use and development of the property. Appellants obtained title insurance from Insurer, but the policy did not mention the Master Plan. Appellants only later learned of the Master Plan when they were informed they were in violation of the Master Plan and faced substantial penalties if they failed to comply with the Plan. Appellants sued Insurer, claiming a breach of the terms of the title insurance policy, negligence, and bad faith. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Insurer on all claims brought in Appellants' complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in entering judgment in favor of Insurer. View "Sonnett v. First Am. Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Jacobs v. State ex rel. Wyo. Workers’ Safety & Comp. Div.
The Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division awarded benefits to Appellant after he experienced a workplace injury. The Division denied Appellant's claim for payment for prescription medication he alleged was related to his workplace injury. The Medical Commission upheld the Division's determination, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission's decision upholding the Division's denial of benefits was supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Commission applied the proper burden of proof for a second compensable injury when it required Appellant to establish a causal connection between his abdominal pain and his ingestion of the prescription medication at issue. View "Jacobs v. State ex rel. Wyo. Workers' Safety & Comp. Div." on Justia Law