The Georgia Supreme Court has issued two decisions on uninsured motorist coverage, one in favor and one against the insurer.
In Travelers Home & Marine Ins. Co. v. Castellanos (4 June 2015), an injured claimant in an automobile accident brought suit against the defendant tortfeasor, and obtained a judgment when the defendant did not show up for trial. The defendant’s insurer denied coverage based on the defendant’s failure to cooperate, and the claimant then submitted a claim for uninsured motorist benefits to collect the amount of the judgment. The uninsured motorist (“UM”) carrier also denied coverage on grounds the liability insurer had not legally denied coverage. The claimant then sued the UM carrier. The Court held the claimant was not entitled to summary judgment against the UM carrier, because the claimant had the burden of producing evidence that the defendant’s liability insurer had legally declined coverage. The Court held this evidence must include proof the liability insurer had requested the defendant’s cooperation, proof that the defendant willfully and intentionally failed to cooperate, and proof that the failure to cooperate prejudiced the defense. The claimant failed to submit evidence on each of these issues.
In FCCI Ins. Co. v. McLendon Enters. Inc. (18 May 2015), the Court ruled in favor of the policyholder against the UM carrier. The claimant was injured in an accident with a school bus. The school district’s liability by statute was limited to its $1 million insurance policy. The Court held the claimant was entitled to collect the excess of his damages, above the school district’s policy limits, from the UM carrier. The school district’s immunity from liability above the amount of its insurance policy limits did not limit the liability of the UM carrier.