An Indiana District Court recently granted summary judgment in favor of an insurer that was charged with breach of the insurance contract and bad faith for denying underinsured motorist benefits to its insured who was found at fault for causing a collision. Barton v. Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois, No. 2:08-CV-206 (N.D.IN Oct. 29, 2009). For a copy of the opinion, please click here.
The Insured was involved in an automobile accident when she attempted to make a left turn and struck a vehicle in the opposite lane that was attempting to make a right hand turn. The Insured and the other driver each gave conflicting accounts of who was at fault. The Insured was trapped in her vehicle following the collision and, as a result, was unable to provide information on the accident scene, such as the location of the vehicles after the collision. The police report and testimony from the responding officer indicated that the Insured’s vehicle was entirely in the wrong lane of traffic at its final resting point.
The Insured submitted a claim for underinsured motorist benefits to her Insurer, which was denied. The Insured commenced suit against her Insurer charging it with breach of contract and bad faith and the Insurer moved for summary judgment. In opposition to the Insurer’s motion for summary judgment, the Insured submitted an expert witness report which concluded that the other driver was at fault for causing the collision. The Insurer moved to strike the report on the basis that it was based on unreliable methodology or no methodology at all. The Insurer reportedly contended that the report was based on assumptions that, in at least one instance, were incorrect based on the Insured’s own deposition transcript, and that the opinions expressed in the report were not based on “expertise, scientific analysis, calculations, computer software, scientific methodologies or any other specialized knowledge.” The court agreed and struck the expert report from the record. Absent the expert report, the undisputed evidence reportedly demonstrated that the Insured’s vehicle had crossed the center line. Finding no evidence to demonstrate that the Insurer breached its contract in denying uninsured motorists benefits, the court granted summary judgment to the Insurer on all of the Insured’s claims.