FC&F Obtains Summary Judgment in Insurance Coverage Action

Michele Messenger was recently successful in a case-dispositive Motion for Summary Judgment in the Butte County Superior Court. The insureds were California residents, who maintained an auto policy issued and delivered in California, which described a vehicle garaged and primarily operated in California. The policy included uninsured motorist coverage. The insureds were in Arkansas, driving a rental car when they sustained significant injuries in an auto accident with an uninsured motorist. They received some initial emergency care in Arkansas, then returned to California where they continued their treatment. They eventually engaged Arkansas counsel to represent them on a UM claim against the insurer. Both the policy and California statute afford a two year accrual period for UM claims, within which the insured must formally demand arbitration or file suit against the uninsured motorist, if the claim is not resolved by settlement.

After the two year period expired with the insureds having failed to protect the two year accrual period, FC&F was retained by the insurer to provide a coverage opinion, in view of the contention by the insureds’ Arkansas counsel that Arkansas has a three year period of limitations for UM claims, which controlled over the California two year period, presenting a conflicts of laws question. FC&F filed a Declaratory Relief Action in California and, following written discovery, prosecuted a Motion for Summary Judgment. Meanwhile, Arkansas counsel for the insured filed an action for UM benefits against the insurer in Arkansas. While our MSJ was pending, the insureds’ counsel filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in the Arkansas action. Ms. Messenger, in the face of a tentative ruling deferring a decision in California pending the outcome of the Arkansas motion, presented a persuasive oral argument which caused the trial court to reverse its tentative ruling, and find in favor of the insurer in California.