Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Discusses When an Insurance Company Is Liable for Intentional Acts of the Insured

Recently, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts issued an opinion in an appeal originating from a Massachusetts wrongful death lawsuit. The case arose after a man struck and killed another person in a parking lot. The victim’s estate brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the culpable party. The family alleged that the man’s gross negligence caused their loved one’s death.

The defendant was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the victim’s estate. The settlement provided that the plaintiffs would only seek recourse from the defendant’s insurance company and release him as long as he admitted to negligence.

The defendant’s insurance company provided coverage for bodily injury to others up to $20,000 and additional coverage up to $480,000 per person. However, the company reserved the right to refuse to pay the additional coverage if the insured’s intentional act caused the accident. As such, the man’s insurance company sought to intervene in the parties’ lawsuit and settlement in an attempt to provide evidence that the crash was intentional. The insurance company claimed that they should be allowed to intervene because neither the victim’s family or the insured driver had any incentive to offer evidence that the accident was intentional. They argued that the parties would much rather agree to settle based on negligence to easily collect a large portion of the damages from the insurance company. The trial court denied the insurance company’s request resulting in their appeal to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

On appeal, the insurance company argued, among other issues, that the settlement between the parties did not bind them because the claim was settled without their consent. The insurance company disputed the validity of the parties’ settlement, arguing that they did not agree to the parties’ stipulation of negligence. The court explained that an insurance company is bound by agreements if, 1.) the company is given notice of the agreement and the ability to be heard by the court before judgment; 2.) the company contests the judgment; and, 3.) the insured party meets their burden of showing that the settlement is reasonable which must be determined in a separate hearing. In this case, the court held that the insurance company is entitled to a reasonableness hearing before they pay out the settlement.

Many injury victims focus solely on the defendant when they are preparing their lawsuits and potential settlement agreements. However, insurance companies often play a critical role in these proceedings as well. Massachusetts injury victims must seek representation from experienced attorneys to cover all of their bases.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Massachusetts Accident?

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a Massachusetts car accident, contact the Law Offices of Barry Feinstein and Affiliates P.C. Attorney Feinstein has over 25 years of experience handling complex personal injury lawsuits and regularly advocates on behalf of his clients against defendants and insurance companies. Mr. Feinstein understands the importance of preserving settlement negotiations amongst parties and can help you get the compensation you deserve. Compensation may include payments for past medical expenses, future medical costs, funeral and burial expenses, and pain and suffering. Contact the Law Offices of Barry Feinstein and Affiliates P.C. at 800-262-9200 to schedule a free consultation.