Thursday, February 16, 2012

Summaey 2012 WY 22

Summary of Decision February 16, 2012

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Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court

Case Name:  Broderick v. Dairyland Insurance Company

Citation:  2012 WY 22

Docket Number: S-11-0096

Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County, The Honorable Catherine E. Wilking, Judge

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff):  Stephen R. Winship of Winship & Winship, P.C., Casper, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee Dairyland (Defendant): Richard G. Schneebeck & Amanda M. Good of Hirst Applegate, LLP, Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Argument by Mr. Schneebeck.

Representing Appellee Schrack (Defendant): Cameron S. Walker of Schwartz, Bon, Walker & Studer, LLC, Casper, Wyoming.

Date of Decision: February 16, 2012

Facts:  The appellant was physically injured as a result of an accident caused by an underinsured motorist.  Prior to the accident, the appellant purchased an insurance policy for his motorcycle from the appellee insurance company, through his insurance agent, also an appellee in this case.  Although the appellant requested “full coverage,” the policy did not include underinsured motorist coverage.  All parties acknowledge that neither the appellant nor his wife read the policy.  When the other driver’s insurance did not fully cover the appellant’s damages, the appellant sued the appellees, raising numerous theories as to why he should recover under the policy. 

After investigating the matter, the appellee insurance company filed a declaratory judgment action in federal district court seeking a determination that it was not required to pay the appellant under the terms of the policy.  The action in state district court commenced following the federal court’s dismissal of the lawsuit.  Subsequently, Appellees filed separate motions for summary judgment.  Following a hearing on the motions, the district court granted both the insurance company’s motion, and the insurance agent’s motion.  This appeal followed. 

Issues:  Did the district court properly grant summary judgment in favor of Appellees?

Holdings:  The court held that Wyoming’s uninsured motorist statutes unambiguously do not require insureds to obtain, or insurers to provide, underinsured motorist liability coverage.  The liability insurance policy the appellant obtained from the insurance company through the insurance agent unambiguously did not contain underinsured motorist coverage, and unambiguously disallowed changes in its terms except by policy endorsement. The appellant did not know these facts because he did not read the policy.  The appellant’s failure to read the policy is available as a defense to both appellees as to the appellant’s negligence and contract claims against them, and bars application of the doctrine of promissory estoppel.  Further, the doctrine of reasonable expectations was not available to alter the unambiguous terms of a policy that the insured did not read.  Neither could the policy be reformed to provide underinsured motorist coverage, because there was no antecedent mutual agreement that such would be provided in the policy.  The appellee agent did not have actual authority to bind the appellee insurance company to provide underinsured motorist coverage, and he did not have apparent authority to do so, given the unambiguous language of the policy to the contrary.  Finally, the appellant cannot pursue a private remedy for an uncured deceptive trade practice under the Wyoming Consumer Protection Act because the statutorily required notice of the alleged deceptive trade practice was not given.

The Court Affirmed.

J. VOIGT delivered the opinion for the court. 

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