This week it was State Farm's turn to be slapped down for over-reaching
In Suminski v. State Farm, the Michigan Court of Appeals, rejected State Farm's claim that it could enforce a "written consent" requirement in its uninsured motorist coverage, after State Farm waived the clause earlier in litigation.
Most Michigan insurers now sell underinsured motorist coverage, and because the coverage is not required by the no fault law, the Engler Justices have decided that they can write in to the policy language any requirements they choose. The activist Republicans on the bench even enforced a one-year limitation on suit under circumstances where the policy holder was unaware that the wrongdoer was uninsured until after the one-year deadline. They have also announced a new doctrine under which they refuse to examine the fairness of any contract terms, claiming they lack the authority to interfere with the parties' contract terms. No self-respecting Judge since the Pullman-era at the turn of the 19th century has advanced such anti-consumer arguments.
Recognizing that they have a friendly audience with a majority of the Supreme Court, insurers have sought to overturn various established holdings and are reaching aggressively to slap down consumer claims and rights. Every month the Justices are faced with another over-reach, and sadly, all too frequently they are awarding this behavior. The appellate judges have also, occasionally, rejected over-reaching claims, and that happened again with State Farm. State Farm had participated in Case Evaluation and facilitation regarding this claim, and even offered to pay $95,000.00 [the balance of its insurance coverage limits after credit for the uninsured at-fault's pledge to pay $5,000.00.
Despite several months of continued negotiations and this written offer, which Plaintiff attempted to accept, some mastermind at State Farm concluded that it could belatedly invoke the "written consent" clause to argue that Ms. Suminski had given up her right to uninsured motorist coverage by agreeing to the Court's case evaluation against the at-fault. On that basis, it took its offer off the table and refused to bargain.
The Court of Appeals noted that State Farm was provided with written notice of the effort to conclude the case evaluation, and owed a duty to respond. The judges of this intermediate court held that State Farm's conduct was inappropriate and constituted a waiver of State Farm's right to enforce the written consent clause.