The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld a trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of an insurer, finding that the policy was not orally modified by any representations of the insurer, and that the plain language of the policy excluded coverage for claims of non-patients.  Hayne v. The Doctors Co., 2014 WL 4243766 (Miss. Aug. 28, 2014).

A physician, sued by an exonerated criminal for his expert testimony against the criminal, claimed coverage under his medical malpractice insurance.  The underlying plaintiff had sued for fraud, malicious prosecution and negligent misrepresentation for testimony regarding an autopsy on a murder victim.  Due in large part to that testimony, the underlying plaintiff had been in prison until DNA evidence exonerated him.  The insurer contended that no coverage existed as the plaintiff was not the insured’s patient as required under the policy.  Litigation ensued.

The insured argued that when the insurer issued its policy, it was aware of the type of medicine he practiced, i.e., forensic, anatomical and clinical pathology for the State of Mississippi in criminal proceedings, and that an oral agreement was made between the insured and insurer that any policy would cover such work.  But the term “claims” was defined as a suit alleging “injury, disability, sickness, disease, or death to a patient arising from [the insured’s] rendering or failing to render professional services.”  The policy further contained an exclusion for work the insured performed as a governmental employee.  On these bases, the insurer moved for summary judgment, which the court granted.  The insured appealed.

The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed, holding that no coverage existed under the plain language of the policy.  It found that an alleged discrepancy between the policy offered by the insurer and a policy the insured produced in discovery had no bearing on its analysis inasmuch as the term “claims” was defined the same in each, though one definition used commas and the other semicolons.