Court overturns dismissal of Uninsured Motorist Claim brought against State Farm after the insurer waived non-compliance arguments
Pamel Kay Woodruff sued her insurer, State Farm, arguing that under the Uninsured Motorist Coverage bought by her sister, the owner of the car in which she was a passenger, State Farm owed her compensation that wasn't covered by the liability insurance of the unidentified at-fault driver who injured her. She had been hurt in a 2008 motor vehicle collision in Waterford, when her car was rear-ended at a stoplight by a motorist who fled the scene. State Farm sought summary dismissal of the claim, arguing that by the policy provisions, Woodruff was allowed to sue only after securing State Farm's agreement that she was entitled to UM damages and only after securing a judgment against the at-fault owner and driver.
Woodruff's attorney countered that despite repeated requests, State Farm refused to provide him with a copy of the sister's No Fault policy. He maintained that he had provided State Farm with adequate proof of injury and that he was not able to find and serve the driver and the imprisoned owner of the at-fault vehicle, which was, in any event, uninsured. The attorney also argued that State Farm had waived this defense by failing to raise it in a timely manner when it could have been "cured."
The trial judge granted State Farm summary disposition, but the Court of Appeals found this outcome inappropriate and overturned the decision on appeal. In particular, the higher court determined that State Farm had made "significant misrepresentations" about the policy, including the representation that a six-year contract statute of limitations would apply. Further, it refused to honor numerous requests for the policy language, providing a copy only as an exhibit with its Motion for Summary Disposition. The Court also pointed to the fact that at the outset of litigaton, State Farm did not raise "non-compliance with policy terms" as a basis for denying the UM claim.
Ultimately, the high court concluded that State Farm had not complied with the Court Rules governing Affirmative Defenses and was properly estopped from raising the issue of contract non-compliance. The case was sent back to the trial court for further development.