Justia South Dakota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Insurance Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that coverage did not exist under an automobile insurance policy issued to Shelby Olsons' parents or an automobile policy issued to the shooter for injuries sustained by Shelby when she was struck by a bullet while riding in the backseat of her parents' vehicle, holding that the circuit court did not err.Shelby was struck by a bullet when the driver of another vehicle fired a handgun at the Olsons' vehicle. At issue was whether coverage for Shelby's injuries existed under the automobile policy issued to her parents or under the automobile policy issued to the shooter. The circuit court concluded that coverage did not exist under either policy because the injuries did not arise out of the use of a vehicle and, alternatively, were not caused by an accident. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the insurance companies. View "Olson v. Slattery" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court determining that Insurer's decision to deny coverage for a single-vehicle accident was not in violation of its duty, holding that the court did not err in concluding that the insurance policy did not provide coverage for Defendant's injuries.Appellant suffered serious injuries when a van in which he was a passenger rolled over in a single-vehicle accident. Appellant brought an action against the driver for personal injuries. The driver had purchased a motor vehicle insurance policy from Insurer. Relying upon policy provisions excluding coverage for any vehicle being used to carry people for a fee, Insurer denied coverage and refused to defend the driver. Insurer then brought this declaration action against Appellant and the driver to determine coverage. The circuit court determined that Insurer had no contractual obligation to defend the driver or provide indemnity for the accident. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding the circuit court did not err in concluding that Insurer's policy exclusions were applicable and denying coverage for the accident. View "Western Agricultural Insurance Co. v. Arbab-Azzein" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Mid-Century Insurance Company and dismissing Christina Blanchard's bad-faith complaint, holding that the circuit court properly granted summary judgment for Mid-Century.In her complaint, Blanchard alleged that Mid-Century pursued a "baseless and meritless appeal" from a decision of the South Dakota Department of Labor awarding Blanchard workers' compensation benefits. On appeal, Blanchard argued, among other things, that the circuit court erred in excluding evidence under the litigation conduct rule. The Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court's exclusion of the evidence under the litigation conduct rule was determinative of the appeal, and therefore it was unnecessary to discuss Blanchard's other claims of error, holding that the circuit court properly excluded the evidence and properly granted summary judgment based upon the other undisputed facts in the record. View "Blanchard v. Mid-Century Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order denying State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company's motion for a new trial after a jury returned a general verdict in favor of Giyo Miranda and denying State Farm's request for subrogation recovery against Miranda, holding that State Farm was not prejudiced by the court's instructions to the jury on the sudden emergency doctrine.Giyo Miranda was involved in a head-on collision with another vehicle driven by Loyd Nielson after Miranda lost control of his vehicle. State Farm, Nielson's insurer, pursued subrogation recovery against Miranda, but the jury returned a general verdict in favor of Miranda. State Farm filed a motion for a new trial, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that State Farm failed to establish any prejudice from the circuit court's instructions and that the court was unable to exercise meaningful appellate review on the merits of State Farm's claims. View "State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Miranda" on Justia Law

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In this declaratory relief proceeding, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's denial of State Farm's motion for summary judgment and entered a judgment in favor of LeRoy James on his complaint alleging that State Farm had no right to reimbursement or subrogation for paying James's medical expenses under his policy, holding that State Farm had no contractual right to reimbursement for the $5,000 paid to James for medical expenses under the policy.State Farm insured both James and Melissa Rivers, who rear-ended James and caused him personal injury. State Farm paid a portion of James's medical expenses under his policy and then, acting on behalf of Rivers, settled with James. Once James released Rivers from liability, State Farm demanded that James use his settlement proceeds to reimburse State Farm for paying his medical expenses. James then brought this action. The circuit court entered a judgment in favor of James. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the text of the reimbursement provision of the policy was ambiguous, and therefore, State Farm had no contractual right to reimbursement from James. View "James v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding in favor of Plaintiff in this declaratory judgment action seeking underinsured motorist benefits under two insurance policies with Defendant, holding that the policy language was ambiguous and that underinsured motorist coverage applied.Plaintiff, special administrator of the Estate of Nehemiah Larimer, brought this action following Nehemiah's death in an accident. Defendant denied coverage pursuant to an "owned but not insured" exclusion in the underinsured motorist benefits endorsement. The circuit court, finding the language of the policy ambiguous, granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the language of the underinsured motorist endorsement was ambiguous, and therefore, the interpretation most favorable to the insured must be adopted. View "Larimer v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court granting Plaintiffs’ motion to compel certain discovery and Plaintiffs’ request for attorney fees, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in granting the motion to compel and that the award of attorney fees was unsupported by the record and the requirements of S.D. Codified Laws 15-6-37(a)(4)(A).Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Defendant, alleging failure to pay underinsured motorist benefits. After Plaintiffs served written discovery requests on Defendant and Defendant did not respond, Plaintiffs filed a motion to compel. The circuit court granted the motion in its entirety, concluding that Defendant had intentionally not responded to requests related to a bad faith cause of action. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) in granting the motion to compel, the circuit court failed to consider Defendant’s arguments that Plaintiffs had not attempted to meet and confer in good faith regarding the scope of discovery, as required by statute; and (2) having failed to consider whether Plaintiffs made a good faith effort to meet and confer when Defendant asserted as such, the circuit court abused its discretion in awarding attorney fees. View "Krueger v. Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of Protective Life Insurance Company on Plaintiff’s complaint alleging breach of contract and bad faith, holding that there were no genuine issues of material fact indicating that Protective breached its contract with Plaintiff.Specifically, the Court held (1) Plaintiff’s claim that Protective breached the implied contractual duty of good faith and fair dealing was reviewable; (2) the circuit court did not err when it determined that Protective did not breach the implied contractual duty of good faith and fair dealing; and (3) the circuit court did not err in ruling that Protective did not commit bad faith in handling Plaintiff’s claims. View "Zochert v. Protective Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s grant of Progressive Northern Insurance Company’s renewed motion for summary judgment on Nicole Harvieux’s claims for bad faith and barratry.Harvieux filed an action under her uninsured motorist insurance coverage (UM) with Progressive for injuries she suffered in a car accident and also filed claims of bad faith and barratry against Progressive. The UM claim was bifurcated from the other claims. Following a trial, the circuit court entered judgment on the UM claim. Thereafter, the circuit court granted Progressive’s motion for summary judgment on the bad faith and barratry claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly granted summary judgment on the bad faith and barratry claims and did not err in denying Harvieux’s application for taxation of costs. View "Harvieux v. Progressive Northern Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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S.D. Codified Laws 58-11-9.4, which requires underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage in motor vehicle liability policies of insurance, does not limit UIM coverage to primary insurance policies and contemplates additional UIM coverage. Therefore, umbrella policies that include UIM coverage are subject to the same public policy prohibition invalidating an exception from coverage for accidents involving government owned vehicles.Plaintiffs purchased a motor vehicle liability policy from one insurer and a personal liability umbrella policy from a separate but related insurer. Both policies provided UIM coverage but both excluded coverage for accounts caused by government vehicles. When one of the plaintiffs was injured in an accident involving a government vehicle, Plaintiffs filed this declaratory action to determine the enforceability of the government vehicle exclusion in both policies. The circuit court determined that the exclusion was not enforceable in the motor vehicle liability policy but was enforceable in the umbrella policy. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in upholding the government vehicle exclusion in the umbrella policy. View "Streff v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law