John Wilbur v State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, No. A15-1438,2017 WL 1245282 (Minn. April 5, 2017)
HKM trial attorney and shareholder William L. Moran recently secured a favorable decision on behalf of his client, a large nationwide insurance company (Respondent), at the Minnesota Supreme Court. In a case of first impression, the question presented on appeal was whether under the plain language of Minn. Stat. § 604.18, subd. 3 (2016), “proceeds awarded” to an insured are capped by an insurance policy’s limit.
In 2009, the Plaintiff/Appellant was permanently injured when his automobile was rear-ended by another vehicle. The at-fault driver’s insurance company paid the full amount available under its policy in the amount of $100,000 to the Plaintiff/Appellant. The Plaintiff/Appellant’s own insurance company (Respondent) initially made a small payment and, thereafter, offered the Plaintiff/Appellant a final settlement amount that was less than his underinsured-motorist policy limit ($100,000). The Plaintiff/Appellant declined to accept the offer and filed a claim against Respondent alleging breach of contract, claiming he was entitled to the full amount recoverable under his policy.
In 2011, a jury returned a verdict in Plaintiff/Appellant’s favor for personal injury damages in the amount of $412,764.63, but ultimately the District Court reduced the verdict to $255,956.59 to account for the at-fault driver’s payment of $100,000 and other collateral-source payments. The District Court found in favor of the Plaintiff/Appellant on his breach of contract claim and ordered the Respondent to pay its full policy limit. Thereafter, Plaintiff/Appellant amended his claim against Respondent under Minn. Stat. § 604.18, which permits an insured to recover “taxable costs” if an insurer unreasonably denies insurance benefits. In affirming the Court of Appeals, the Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously determined that the phrase “proceeds awarded” as used in the statute was unambiguous and is limited to the amount awarded under an insurance policy.
Throughout his 30+ year legal career, Bill has distinguished himself as an accomplished litigator. He regularly represents consumer, commercial and industrial product manufacturers, retailers and insurers. He focuses his practice in the areas of Class Action Defense, Commercial Litigation, Construction Litigation, Employment Litigation, Environmental Litigation, Insurance Related Litigation, Product Liability Defense, and Toxic Torts. Bill is a frequent lecturer and author for continuing education programs, seminars and law school classes. He is a former Associate Editor and contributing author for Minnesota Defense (the publication of the Minnesota Defense Lawyers Association).
Bill is admitted to practice in the state courts of Minnesota and federal district courts in Minnesota, Nebraska, the Western District of Wisconsin, the United States Courts of Appeal for the 7th and 8th Circuits and the United States Supreme Court. He has also appeared pro hac vice in state and federal courts throughout the United States. Bill has an AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating in the distinguished legal directory, Martindale-Hubbell.* In 2017, Bill has been named a Lawyer of Distinction, where membership is limited to the top 10% of attorneys in the United States.
*AV® is a certification mark of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies.