Insurance agent not guilty of malpractice or professional negligence.
Robert Richardson sued his "independent" insurance agent, after his wife caused a fatal accident resulting in a verdict and judgment that greatly exceeded their $100,000.00 liability insurance coverage limits. Richardson claimed that he asked his agent whether his coverage was adequate and was told that it was.
The agent argued that he provided Richardson with two options and that Richardson chose the smaller limit. He also claimed that he couldn't recall any such conversation and that he had no idea that the insured had assets to protect because they never discussed that issue. Because Richardson testified that he knew how much liability coverage he bought, he was not allowed to testify that he didn't understand what the coverage limits actually "meant."
Although the Court disagreed with the trial judge's ruling that a two-year professional malpractice statute of limitations should apply, it still upheld the grant of summary disposition against Richardson. The Court ruled that even though the defendant wasn't a "captive" agent whose only duty is to sell as much of his company's insurance as possible--creating no duty to the insured, he still, as an independent agent of many years, "owed no duty to inquire or investigate Richardson's assets" and that Richardson had not proved any special duty arising out of the insurance agent's long-term relationship with Richardson.