Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Court reviews the application of an offset provision in an uninsured motorist policy

BECKY COOPER v. JASON POWERS ET AL. (Tenn. Ct. App. November 29, 2011)

At its core, this case is about the application of an offset provision in an uninsured motorist ("UM") policy to an individual's claim for damages arising out of an automobile accident in the course and scope of her employment.

The plaintiff Becky Cooper's workers' compensation claim arising out of the accident, along with another workers' compensation claim, this one for injuries sustained by the plaintiff "while getting a briefcase from her car," were settled and approved by the Chancery Court for Hamilton County. The "final order" of that court recites that the court acted upon the "joint petition of the employer, ... the insurer, ... and the employee, ...for the approval of a proposed settlement under the ...Workers' Compensation [Law]." The order does not expressly state that the plaintiff was paid any benefits for the injuries sustained in the automobile accident; but it does recite that she received all of the benefits to which she was due with respect to the two claims.

The plaintiff filed the present action against the driver and owner of the other vehicle involved in the accident and served a copy of the complaint on Pacific Employers Insurance Company, the UM carrier of the company whose automobile the plaintiff was driving at the time of the accident. The UM carrier filed a motion for partial summary judgment asserting that it is entitled to an offset corresponding to the workers' compensation benefits to which the plaintiff was entitled under the Workers' Compensation Law with respect to the automobile accident.

The trial court granted the UM carrier partial summary judgment in an order that states simply, without further elaboration, "[t]his is a final order." For several reasons, we hold that the court's order is not a final order under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.02. However, in the interest of the efficient administration of justice, see Tenn. R. App. P. 1, we exercise our discretion to treat this appeal as if it were before us pursuant to the provisions of Tenn. R. App. P. 9. With respect to the merits of this case, we affirm the trial court's order granting partial summary judgment and remand for further proceedings.

Full opinion available at:
http://www.tba2.org/tba_files/TCA/2011/cooperb_112911.pdf

FRANKS dissenting:
http://www.tba2.org/tba_files/TCA/2011/cooper_DIS_112911.pdf

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