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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issues awaited insurance decisions

In State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Patricia Jakupko, et al, a 14-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:

Richard Jakupko suffered severe injuries and his wife and children emotional distress in an automobile accident caused by an underinsured motorist. Their insurance company contends that their underinsured motorist insurance policy subjects any amount the wife and children can recover for their emotional distress to the per person liability cap applicable to Richard. Such a limitation would violate the requirements of Indiana’s underinsured motorist insurance statute and be void; the wife and children are each entitled to their own per person liability limit.
In Austin J. Elliott, et al v. Allstate Insurance Co., a 4-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes that the judgment of the trial court is reversed.
The policy language at issue here is slightly different than that in Jakupko. However, both cases present us with precisely the same issues to decide:

(1) whether “bodily injury” as defined in the policy at issue in this case includes the emotional distress Amber and Austin suffered; and, if so,

(2) whether the fact that the policy provides that the coverage limit for bodily injury suffered by Amanda “includ[es] damages sustained by anyone else as a result of that bodily injury” precludes Amber and Austin from having their own independent limits on liability.

Our decision today in Jakupko resolves these issues. In it we hold that “bodily injury” as defined in the policy at issue in that case includes emotional distress. For the same reasons, we reach the same result here.

In State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. v. D.L.B., Deana H. Brake , a 5-page, 3-2 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:
We grant transfer here today, because like Jakupko, this case requires us to decide whether “bodily injury” as defined in the policy at issue in this case includes the emotional distress D.L.B. suffered.

In Jakupko, we hold that “bodily injury,” as defined in the policy at issue in that case, includes emotional distress. ... However, we note in Jakupko that the term “bodily injury” does not include emotional damage unless it arises from a bodily touching. * * *

D.L.B. argues that although he did not suffer a direct impact, his emotional distress was accompanied by physical manifestations. As Judge Darden observes in his dissent, however, these physical manifestations were not the result of an impact, force, or harm to D.L.B.’s body and so do not fall with the ambit of Wayne Township; rather, this case is controlled by Armstrong.

Because D.L.B. did not suffer “bodily injury” within the meaning of the policy, he was not entitled to collect damages under Wallace’s State Farm policy. The judgment of the trial court is reversed.

Shepard, C.J., and Boehm, J., concur.

Dickson, J., dissents with a separate opinion in which Rucker, J., concurs. [J. Dickson's dissent concludes] Because I prefer not to affirm the summary judgment for State Farm on an issue not raised and on which D.L.B. has not had an opportunity to respond, I would reverse the trial court's grant of summary judgment for State Farm.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 28, 2008 05:38 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions