Lee McIntosh was involved in a hit and run accident caused by Jake Watkins. He sought treble damages against Watkins based upon the damage done to his vehicle. The District Court of Pottawatomie County held that 47 O.S. 2011 § 10-103 did not allow for treble damages because McIntosh also sustained injuries. Judgment was granted for Watkins. McIntosh appealed. In a 5-4 verdict the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed the District Court's ruling saying that its interpretation "maintains the public policy behind 47 O.S. 2011 § 10-103 and avoids an absurd result."
The minority judges wrote a scathing rebuke of the majority's parsing of the legislative intent of 47 O.S. 2011 § 10-103. They noted that the majority had failed to appreciate the plain language of the statute and blasted the the decision as a "three-card-monte-like application of ambiguity, absurdity, and intentionalism" that resulted in "treble damages for everyone. The minority judges concluded that the case "demonstrates that it is all too easy to craft perfectly logical and sound policies from the isolation of judicial chambers" that fail to consider "the legislative compromises essential to a law's passage."
Richard Whitham filed suit against Progressive Northern Insurance Company for breach of contract due to its alleged failure to pay owed underinsured motorist benefits. The suit was originally filed in Tulsa County District Court, but because Whitham's Petition alleged damages in excess of $75,000, Progressive removed the case to the United States District Court Northern District of Oklahoma on the basis of party diversity and the amount of damages sought. Whitham subsequently said he was seeking only the underinsured motorist policy limits of $50,000, so he filed a motion to have the suit remanded to Tulsa County. Whitham's motion was denied. In denying the motion the Northern District noted that the law was clearly established that a "plaintiff may not defeat removal based on diversity of citizenship by reducing the amount in controversy after removal."
Plaintiff was in an accident that occurred while he was driving a vehicle owned by his father, the named insured under the insurance policy at issue. The policy provided $100,000 of uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage, but the vehicle Plaintiff was driving was not listed on the policy. Plaintiff presented a UM claim. Progressive Northern tendered $25,000 to Plaintiff and asserted coverage was barred in excess of that amount – the state mandatory minimum – because the vehicle was owned by the insured, but unlisted on the policy. Progressive maintained that even if a UM exclusion violates public policy – which it did not concede was the case – public policy requires only the provision of UM coverage in an amount equal to the state mandatory minimums – $25,000. Plaintiff sued for breach of contract and bad faith.
The Court acknowledged the absence of precedential law requiring Progressive to provide UM coverage in an amount equal to the $100,000 limit under the facts presented by the claim and also confirmed Progressive’s interpretation of the relevant persuasive Oklahoma law was reasonable. The court agreed with Progressive’s interpretation of 36 O.S. § 3636(E), but it disagreed with Progressive’s position that when an applicable UM exclusion violates public policy, that same public policy does not require provision of the full UM limits but is instead satisfied by provision of UM coverage in an amount equal to the mandatory minimum limits. Under the specific facts of the case, the court held public policy prohibited enforcement of the exclusion, though it applied under the facts. The court denied both parties’ motions for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim, holding that if Plaintiff demonstrated the preconditions for a UM loss existed, he would be entitled to recover the full UM limit. The court found Progressive’s interpretation and application of Oklahoma law, its reliance on counsel, and its handling of Plaintiff’s UM claim to be reasonable. It entered summary judgment in Progressive’s favor on Plaintiff’s bad faith claim.
This declaratory judgment action arose out of a one-car accident in which an employee of Progressive Northern Insurance Company’s (“Progressive’s”) named insured, J&S Exchange, Inc. (“J&S”), was driving his personally-owned vehicle. As a result of the accident, a passenger in the vehicle -- who was also an employee of J&S -- was unfortunately killed. At the time of the accident, J&S had workers’ compensation insurance, but the estate for the deceased passenger decided not to present a workers’ compensation claim. The estate then brought suit against the driver and J&S in Kay (Ponca City) County, asserting that the driver had been acting within the course and scope of his employment, but the passenger had not been.
Judge James Payne of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma held that the liability exclusion contained in the liability coverage part of the commercial auto policy issued by Progressive to J&S was valid. Judge Payne ruled the estate had a colorable claim for compensation under the Administrative Workers Compensation Act and, therefore, a liability exclusion which barred liability coverage for “[a]ny obligation for which an insured or an insurer of that insured, even if one does not exist, may be held liable under workers' compensation … law” applied despite the fact the estate had chosen not to present a workers’ compensation claim. Judge Payne also ruled that there was no uninsured/underinsured motorist (“UM/UIM”) coverage or medical payments coverage available to the deceased passenger’s estate under J&S’ policy. Of note, Judge Payne also ruled the estate’s argument that the “reasonable expectations doctrine” dictated UM/UIM coverage should be provided was an affirmative defense which the estate was required to assert.
Action was brought against Defendant claiming breach of insurance contract and bad faith related to the company's handling of a property damage claim. The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant on the issue of bad faith. At trial for the breach of contract claim a verdict was entered for Plaintiff in the amount of $5,500, but Defendant had previously filed an Offer to Confess for $14,000. Therefore, Defendant was awarded fees and costs, so Plaintiff appealed to the 10th Circuit. The 10th Circuit found in favor of Defendant.